Premier John Horgan enters the feast hall in Witset last month. Despite the good will surrounding Horgan’s visit, the battle over Coastal GasLink’s pipeline project, permitted by the province, but opposed by the Wet’suwet’en, continues. (Thom Barker photo)

Likhts’amisyu clan vows to build new blockade

Conflict continues between pipeline company and Wet’suwet’en

One of the five Wet’suwet’en clans is planning to set up another blockade of Coastal GasLink’s (CGL) liquified natural gas (LNG) pipeline.

“We will be building permanent buildings on our territory in an effort to assert our precolonial rights and jurisdiction on our lands,” the Likhts’amisyu said in a Facebook post.

“The new Likhts’amisyu Camp will be strategically located in order to impede the ability of the Coastal GasLink Corporation to force their pipeline through Wet’suwet’en land.”

The post states there are currently three such encampments, the most famous of which is the Unist’ot’en (Dark House) healing centre south of Houston that garnered international attention in December of last year and the first part of 2019.

In December, the B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal a temporary injunction to remove a Unist’ot’en gate denying workers access to the pipeline route. Another gate on Gitdumden territory was set up in response, which led to 14 people being arrested in early January.

READ MORE: Coastal GasLink gets temporary injunction against Unist’ot’en

READ MORE: RCMP enforce injunction

Neither the Likhts’amisyu nor the Office of the Wet’suwet’en responded to requests for comment, but in January the hereditary chiefs remained opposed to any pipeline going through their traditional territories despite 20 band councils having signed off on CGL’s project. The chiefs’ position is that the band councils can only make agreements for projects within the reserve boundaries.

Nevertheless, following the Gitdumden arrests, the chiefs did agree to abide by the temporary injunction. A hearing is currently scheduled for May 31. The company is seeking to make the injunction permanent. The Wet’suwet’en are fighting that.

READ MORE: Hereditary chiefs negotiate injunction agreement

“There are some people out there who think we are making a deal,” said Chief Na’moks (John Ridsdale) at the time of the injunction agreement. “No, we still oppose this project. But what is happening is access, access for our people to come and go as they wish.”

Meanwhile, in March, Premier John Horgan attended a smoke feast in Witset at which the Wet’suwet’en and Province announced a new round of discussions regarding rights and title.

READ MORE: Premier in Witset for discussions

With respect to the Likhts’amisyu construction plans, the premier’s office provided a statement to The Interior News.

“The LNG Canada project represents great opportunities for all people in B.C., and it also recognizes and highlights the challenges of reconciliation,” an email stated. “As the premier has said before, there’s no quick fix to resolving issues that go back hundreds of years. We know the company recognizes the importance of continued work with First Nations.

“For our part, our government remains committed to the hard work of reconciliation. That’s why we’re working with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en a new reconciliation process to self-determination and self-government.”

As the Likhts’amisyu prepare to start construction Apr. 28, CGL intends to proceed with its pre-construction.

“We are aware of social media discussion regarding the construction of new structures in areas near the Coastal Gas Link right-of-way,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to work collaboratively with Indigenous communities to ensure the pipeline is built in an environmentally sustainable manner that ensures First Nation members, businesses and local communities maximize their economic opportunities. We continue to progress our preliminary construction activities in accordance with the permits and authorizations received from the Environmental Assessment Office and the BC Oil and Gas Commission.”

British Columbia has fully permitted the pipeline, which will carry LNG from the Dawson Creek area to a proposed LNG Canada facility near Kitimat.

The Likhts’amisyu are vowing it will never be built.

“It is important that people realize that this fight is far from over,” the Facebook post says. “The events of December and January should be regarded as one phase in a struggle that has been going on for a decade. A new phase of struggle will begin in the spring of this year, and it may prove to be the decisive one. Part of the strategy is to stymie CGL by blocking them at multiple points.”

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