Violent RCMP Arrests of Indigneous Land Defenders Continue at Wedzin Kwa

Tensions escalate on Wet’suwet’en territory over Coastal Gas pipeline

Alisha Samnani // Editor-in-Chief

Multiple arrests aren’t stopping Wet’suwet’en land and water defenders as they continue to occupy a pipeline worksite on Gidimt’en clan territory in northwest B.C. in an effort to prevent drilling under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River), raising fears about escalating police actions.

Wet’suwet’en land and water defenders have remained at the territory since early 2020, when RCMP arrested matriarchs and supporters at camps along the Wedzin Kwa Forest Service Road during the enforcement of a court-ordered injunction, triggering an outpouring of country-wide solidarity actions. 

On Oct. 17, neighbouring Lihkt’samisyu clan chiefs Dsta’hyl and Tse’besa deactivated a Coastal GasLink (CGL) excavator and claimed it for the Lihkt’samisyu clan government, warning workers they will not stop until all equipment is removed from the territory.

“We want to make sure that you guys know that we mean business,” said Chief Dsta’hyl in one of many videos posted to social media last week, after immobilizing the excavator. He also explained that the equipment was being deactivated in an effort to force CGL into a meeting.

On Oct. 27, Dsta’hyl was arrested and charged with mischief and theft over $5,000 for his part in decommissioning the equipment. He spent one night in jail, after which he was released with restrictions placed on his return to the area.

In a written statement issued on Oct. 27 in response to what the company called “an escalation in unlawful and dangerous activities by opponents,” CGL said they are “increasingly concerned about the safety of our workforce and the public,” and that “every reasonable effort is being made by our teams to de-escalate this situation.”

​​The recent conflict at Wedzin Kwa follows shortly after a dispute between LNG Canada and TC Energy. In a project update, LNG Canada CEO Peter Zebedee expressed concerns about the pipeline’s rising costs and schedule delays.

“Progress along the [CGL] pipeline is encouraging; however, we remain concerned that [CGL’s] operator and parent company, TC Energy, has proposed significant increased cost estimates to complete the pipeline, over and above what was agreed to when we took our final investment decision in late 2018,” wrote Zebedee.

The pipeline has been heavily subsidized by the federal government since 2018, including last year’s $500 million loan to support construction of the project. On Oct. 19, a letter from the Gidimt’en Checkpoint was issued to over 35 CGL investors globally, demanding immediate divestment and noting that “financing the project violates Indigenous rights and breaks any investor commitments to racial justice, reconciliation, and social responsibility.”

This is an ongoing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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