Members of the Gidimt’en clan say they are officially evicting all Coastal GasLink employees from the Wet’suwet’en territory in the interior of British Columbia.
Starting at 5 a.m. Sunday, the clan told workers they had eight hours to “peacefully evacuate” the area before the main road into the Lhudis Bin territory was closed at 1 p.m.
Jennifer Wickham, Gidimt’en Checkpoint media coordinator, says the company has complied thus far, but she says several employees who were already on the sites may take hours to travel out of the territory boundary.
The move comes 50 days after the establishment of Coyote Camp, which halted efforts by Coastal GasLink to build an essential part of the 670 kilometre pipeline that would transport natural gas from Dawson Creek in northeastern B.C. to Kitimat in the province’s North Coast region.
Sleydo’, whose English name is Molly Wickham, is the spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Checkpoint, which controls access to the part of the Wet’suwet’en territory.
She says in a press release that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have “never ceded, surrendered, or lost title to the territory” and that Coastal GasLink employees have been breaching both Indigenous law and an eviction notice that was issued nearly two years ago.
“They have been violating this law for too long,” she says.
All 20 elected First Nations councils along the pipeline’s path approved the project, but Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs from all five clans of the nation claimed the project had no authority without consent through their traditional system of governance.
They issued and enforced an eviction notice against Coastal GasLink, sparking nationwide solidarity protests and paralyzing pipeline work throughout Wet’suwet’en land.
Wickham says Sunday’s eviction comes with conditions that no RCMP officers travel past the 30 kilometre point on Morice River and that all workers leave peacefully without any violence or harassment.
“If either of those two things are breached, then the road would be closed immediately and they would have to figure out another way to get their employees out,” Wickham said.
Dawn Roberts, the director in charge of B.C. RCMP communications, says police are aware of the notice and the situation is being monitored and continually assessed.
”We have had and will continue to have a police presence in the area. The primary responsibility of those officers has been to conduct roving patrols and respond to any complaints, but there has been no indications that I’m aware of that we were doing any enforcement today,” she said.
Wickham says there has been no formal communication with the company, but Gidimt’en Chief Dini ze’ Woos has been in contact with officials from Coastal GasLink.
“We anticipate that there will be full compliance,” she said.
Coastal GasLink did not immediately respond to request for comment.
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