VANCOUVER — A First Nation in British Columbia has served a company that wants to build a natural gas pipeline through its territory an eviction notice.
“This notice is to inform you that all Coastal GasLink staff and contractors currently trespassing on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory must vacate our territory immediately,” reads a letter from the First Nation’s hereditary chiefs to the company whose $6.6-billion pipeline would transport natural gas across 670 kilometres from northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat.
Coastal GasLink workers and contractors in the area near Houston, B.C., complied with the notice peacefully Saturday night, confirmed two spokespeople for Indigenous groups.
A spokeswoman for Coastal GasLink, Suzanne Wilton, said in an emailed statement that “the only people on site Saturday were security staff.” The company expects construction to resume this week after a holiday break, she wrote.
At first, the workers were reluctant, said Na’Moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale and is the highest ranking hereditary chief of Tsayu, one of the five clans that make up the First Nation.
He estimates it took workers between 90 minutes and two hours to leave.
Coastal GasLink, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment beyond the emailed statement, said on its website that it received the notice.
It “demanded that we remove our equipment from areas in which we are legally permitted to operate,” the company said.
Coastal GasLink also said it was notified on Jan. 3 by Unist’ot’en that the Indigenous group intends to terminate an access agreement effective Jan. 10.
The company’s workers also discovered felled trees early Sunday morning that make a road impassable, it said.
“While it is unclear who felled these trees, this action is a clear violation of the interlocutory injunction as it prevents our crews from accessing work areas,” it said in the statement.
On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court granted the company an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and others who oppose the company’s pipeline.
Na’Moks said his group’s position is that the ruling was misinformed.
Coastal GasLink said it was “disappointed” Unist’ot’en decided to terminate the agreement after it was in place for a year and is requesting to meet with the group and hereditary chiefs as soon as possible.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2020.
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