Unist’ot’en Territory, May 25th, 2023
To our dearest supporters and allies,
TC Energy, in the construction of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline (CGL) has been reported by the Narwhal and a Citizen Monitoring Group as “having committed numerous environmental infractions, including slope failures, flooded worksites, and sediment entering wetlands and waterways.”
Helicopter flyovers of the area revealed heartbreaking footage of the destruction of our territory, currently otherwise inaccessible to us due to the ceaseless harassment of our people by the CIRG and CGL security and by gates put up to limit our access.
CGL received permits to construct a “trenchless crossing” of the Gosnell Creek and surrounding wetlands, a vital tributary to our Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) and in January, they laid down rubber and timber mats over frozen wetlands, in order to bring in heavy equipment. If they were going to do the crossing in this manner, it was imperative that they complete it in winter.
While machines sat idle, predictably, May brought spring melt. As the snow and ice pack dissolved into the river, the equipment, mats, pipes, and other infrastructure sank into the wetlands and Gosnell Creek itself.
On May 9th, the EAO inspected the area and dropped a stop work order for a 5km radius surrounding the crossing. The order does not include “activities necessary for the watercourse crossing of Gosnell Creek”. Further attempts to cross the river at this time will cause enormous additional harm.
CGL has left their equipment to sink into the river and the wetlands, and it has been sinking for weeks. This was the 6th stop work order issued to CGL in two weeks, covering 6 sections of the pipeline. Many areas of the damage appear to be outside of the stop work order area, and traffic through the area does not seem to have decreased at all.
The Gosnell is thick and sludgy. Where it enters the Wedzin Kwa, the Wedzin Kwa changes from clear blue green to an opaque brown.
The violent history of colonization, the Indian Act, the reservation system, and residential schools have sought to disconnect us from the healing and nourishing power of our lands. These wetlands are part of a federally protected wetland complex. They are the nurseries for moose in calving season, home to beaver and marten, and a much needed respite from the heat for other animals in summer. They provide us with cranberries, rice root, and a resting place for birds. They filter and oxygenate the water that feeds the rivers like Wedzin Kwa, absorb spring runoff and flood waters to prevent erosion and filter silt that can ruin salmon spawning beds. Salmon that many of us in the northwest coast rely on spawn in these waterways.
The future of the Healing Centre and its vital work in connecting our people with our culture and roots, with our way of life and medicine, with who we are as people, depends on the survival of our territories, and our territories are rooted in the survival of our waterways and wetlands.
CGL promised that this would be a trenchless crossing and instead they have made a landfill of our bread basket. The Gosnell is as opaque as pavement. Salmon cannot survive without light and air.
This cannot continue. CGL must be held accountable for their actions, and consistent unbiased inspections must be done over the length of the pipeline to prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening again.
We call on you to ask your MLAs, MPs, the National Resource Violations office, the Environmental Enforcement office, and especially Minister of Environment George Heyman (250-387-1197) and Minister of Energy Josie Osborne (250-953-0900) to call for an immediate cease work order on the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline until a full inspection has been conducted and all remedial and repair work has been completed.
Karla Tait, Ph.D.
Unist’ot’en Member and Director of Clinical Services at Unist’ot’en Healing Centre