RCMP take information from women who participated in a ceremony recently which stopped work briefly on the Coastal Gaslink pipeline. (Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory Facebook screenshot)

RCMP take information from women who participated in a ceremony recently which stopped work briefly on the Coastal Gaslink pipeline. (Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory Facebook screenshot)

Ceremony a right at proposed CGL pipeline drill site: BC Union of Indian Chiefs

Indigenous land defenders cannot be criminalized and targeted, argues UBCIC

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is standing with Wet’suwet’en people who said they were threatened with arrest during a recent ceremony in their traditional territory near Houston, B.C. which briefly blocked access for Coastal GasLink workers.

Jennifer Wickham was one of four Gidim’ten women who participated in a ceremony in the path of a controversial 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline that will eventually carry natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat. The ceremony, which was released in a video posted Tuesday, Oct. 13 on Facebook shows the women singing around a small fire near the CGL pipeline route.

“I think it’s pretty in-line with how the RCMP respond to anything we do on our territory, which is with unnecessary force and threats of arrests,” Wickham said.

North District RCMP Media Relations Cpl. Madonna Saunderson, meanwhile, said the women were blocking access to the worksite, however, the matter was resolved peacefully with no arrests or charges.

“The RCMP will always respect the right of Indigenous people to practice ceremonies,” Saunderson told Black Press Media.

UBCIC said violence must not threaten the safety and rights of “land defenders and matriarchs” holding ceremonies and protecting the sacred Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) headwaters.

“Indigenous land defenders and community members cannot be criminalized and targeted for asserting their title and rights and conducting ceremonial and cultural traditions,” UBCIC stated in a Oct. 15 news release.

“This stands in acute opposition to the provincial government’s obligations under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.”

Read More: Resource development key to Stikine economy: provincial candidates

Saunderson said if ceremonies are being practiced that are not safe, peaceful or lawful, a measured approach to negotiate an alternative with all parties will be taken.

She added this may include re-locating persons to a safer location or any other options acceptable to all parties.

“In this case, the complainant agreed to allow time for the fire associated to the ceremony to burn itself out rather than be extinguished,” Saunderson noted.

In the Facebook video, Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) said the women wanted to “make some offerings to their ancestors of all the things that matter the most to them.”

It shows the women standing in an area recently cleared of trees, with heavy equipment nearby, as they make a small fire and begin singing a mourning song.

A CGL worker approaches them and repeatedly asks how long their ceremony was going to take.

“The work being done here is lawful, authorized and permitted,” he said, adding CGL would be calling in the RCMP. “This is a work zone and you’re impeding the work that we’re doing.”

CGL could not be reached for comment.

Read More: Houston mayor named to group working on Wet’suwet’en rights and title

Read More: Environmental Assessment Office disputes Wet’suwet’en interpretation of legislation as Supreme Court hearing continues

Although five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils have signed agreements with CGL supporting the construction of the pipeline, the majority of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have opposed it.

In October 2019, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs issued an immediate cease and desist order to CGL due to the ‘ongoing destruction of Wet’suwet’en cultural and archaeological sites, and non-compliance with Wet’suwet’en and B.C. law.’

Before the end of the year, CGL was granted a permanent injunction by the B.C. Supreme Court. The ruling was formally rejected by the hereditary chiefs.

A petition by the Office of the Wet’suwet’en seeking an order to quash an extension of CGL’s environmental assessment certificate will resumed Friday, Oct. 16.

(With files from Canadian Press)


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLinkFirst Nations

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Lake Babine Nation closure sign
Lake Babine Nation issues COVID numbers update

Urges members to follow provincial health orders

NH representative confirmed that people who received their first dose will be scheduled to receive their second dose within the recommended timeframe.(The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette photo)
Vaccine rollout abruptly halted in Lakes District

Northern Health cites Pfizer shipment delays for the vaccine distribution disruption

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Most Read