Haisla Chief Crystal Smith at a First Nations LNG Alliance gathering in Prince Rupert Tuesday with members of the Gitxaala. Contributed photo

Coastal GasLink turned away by Gitdumden checkpoint

First Nations LNG Alliance stress cooperation as CGL unable to deliver interim injunction.

Coastal GasLink representatives were turned away Tuesday at the newly built checkpoint on Morice Forest Service Road.

The company said in a release that they were on their way to provide the interim injunction order to the Unist’ot’en camp further down the road when they were stopped by the checkpoint and turned away.

The checkpoint or blockade was set up Monday by members of the Gitdumden clan of the Wet’suwet’en. That clan borders the Unist’ot’en or Dark House of the Gil-seyhu clan that has set up a camp on west side of the Morice River bridge.

The interim injunction was ordered last Friday to go into effect Monday afternoon. It says that the Unist’ot’en must take down the gate blocking access to the area that pipeline contractors planned on working to prepare in January for construction of the natural gas pipeline in the summer of 2021.

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

READ MORE: Gitdumden checkpoint blocks access to Unist’ot’en camp

Full release from Coastal GasLink sent out Tuesday:

“Today, Coastal GasLink and a process server attempted to visit the Morice River Bridge to provide the interim injunction order. The interim injunction, granted by the British Columbia Supreme Court on Friday, December 14, provides Coastal GasLink with legal authority to remove the current blockade preventing the use of the bridge. The order also provided the Unist’ot’en camp with an additional three days to remove the blockade themselves to allow access to the public road. Regrettably, Coastal GasLink and the process server were prevented from posting the order at the bridge because of an additional blockade leading to the Morice River Bridge. The order was therefore posted at the first blockade. Although Coastal GasLink currently has a legal right to remove blockades, the team members who accompanied the process server today had intended to attempt to find a peaceful resolution to this situation. Unfortunately, in addition to further blockades, the project team was again denied access. Coastal GasLink will now take time to evaluate the appropriate steps necessary to ensure access is achieved in a safe manner for all those involved.”

First Nations LNG Alliance

First Nations supporters of the LNG project sent out a release Wednesday morning after an event in Prince Rupert held Tuesday by the First Nations LNG Alliance.

The First Nations LNG Alliance describes itself as a collective of First Nations who “are participating in, and supportive of, sustainable and responsible LNG development in B.C.”

Its CEO Karen Ogen-Toews is the former elected chief of Wet’suwet’en First Nation band near Burns Lake. The release said she spoke to Gitxaala Nation members and others on the recent headlines about divisions among hereditary and elected leaders of the Wet’suwet’en regarding natural gas pipeline developments.

““These two entities serve band members and clan members. The point is, they are the same people. As leadership, it is a tough balancing act. We need to find ways and means to sustain our communities economically. We need to balance the environment and economy, for the people,” she is quoted as saying.

Ogen-Toews was also quoted as saying that hereditary and elected leaders in the Gitxaala Nation have long been working together.

“You have been modelling for us all across BC how hereditary chiefs and elected chiefs can work together for the people, for your people. It is inspiring. Thank you for your wisdom.

“As a former chief, I attempted to bring our Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs and hereditary chiefs together so we can work together for the benefit of our people. It is sad that within the Wet’suwet’en nation it is broken and we need to fix it.

“Our people need both the hereditary chiefs and elected chiefs to work together for the people. Witnessing the Gitxaala and their words of wisdom, compassion and humility has given me hope for our Wet’suwet’en nation. I pray and hope that we can come together as one people and work together so our people can prosper.”

The release also said First Nations LNG Alliance chair, Chief Dan George of the Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation (Burns Lake Band) pointed out earlier that there are hereditary chiefs who support the planned Coastal GasLink Pipeline the benefits promised for First Nations people.

Coastal GasLink has agreements with the elected councils of all 20 First Nations — including Witset and the other Wet’suwet’en bands — along the 670-km pipeline route from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat.

The LNG Canada export plant in Kitimat that the pipeline ends at is on Haisla territory.

Haisla Chief Crystal Smith was at the event Tuesday, describing the LNG industry opportunity as “historic.”

“We have the opportunity to re-instill our economy of our past … and bring it into a modern context. It is imperative that we become united, united as Indigenous communities for the benefit of our people,” she was quoted as saying in the release.

“We as Nations that support LNG Canada and CGL need to actively support one another as we face the environmental activists that are (saying) that we as First Nations leadership sold out … our environment. Our Haisla Territory is our identity. It is our culture,” said Smith.

Chief Councillor Vivian Tom of the elected band Wet’suwet’en First Nation was also in attendance.

“I don’t mind environmentalists coming into our territory, but when they try to stop everything we have to think no. I am really thankful that we are going to have employment (from LNG development) in our Nation. It’s exciting,” Tom was quoted as saying.

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Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs at the Gitdumden checkpoint on Tuesday. Twitter photo

First Nations LNG Alliance CEO Karen Ogen-Toews. File photo

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