An inspection by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) has found Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. (CGL) to be in “non compliance” with three conditions of their environmental assessment certificate. The EAO has requested that CGL “immediately cease activities” within the trapline registered to our Hereditary Chief Knedebeas (Warner William) that may adversely affect the trapline’s use.
The BCEAO has found that Coastal GasLink failed to provide the required six months of advance notice for construction activities affecting our trapline, and additionally failed to conduct required site habitat assessments before beginning work.
CGL has been ordered to “not resume activities that may affect” the use of this trapline until June 12, 2019, or until the trapline is no longer in use due to seasonal restrictions.
Thus far, Coastal GasLink has ignored the EAO cease and desist order for Dark House territory. Despite delivery of the stop-work order on Wednesday of this week, CGL contractors continued to block access to our traplines, and were operating bulldozers and excavators within meters of our active traps on Wednesday and Thursday.
EAO’s stop-work order follows the extensive disruption and destruction of Unist’ot’en trapping areas by Coastal GasLink contractors. For weeks, RCMP and Coastal GasLink security personnel have denied our trappers access to their lines, threatened Unist’ot’en Healing Centre residents with arrest, and overseen the leveling of a clearly marked and active trapline in blatant violation of the BC Wildlife Act.
Over the past month CGL has installed five bridges into previously deactivated roadways, effectively ruining sections of our trapline. Our most successful lines have come up empty over the past month, as heavy machinery, traffic, noise, lights, and human presence have encroached on and damaged animal habitats, scaring the animals away.
By bulldozing our most accessible trapline, CGL has forced our trappers to travel greater distances and into harder to access areas. Disturbance of trapping activities has increased our operational costs and reduced our trapping income, such that our trapping activities may not break even this year.
The trapping program is an integral part of Unist’ot’en Healing Center activities as it provides a cultural, land-based activity that allows residents to connect with ancestral knowledge and practice. Through these activities residents acquire skills that establish a sense of personal esteem and mastery, building up their confidence as knowledge keepers and eventually as teachers. Trappers connect with the land, animals, and ancestors in a ceremonial manner that recognizes their place in relation to the natural world. Trapping is a grounding, healing, and sacred practice. CGL has disrupted this vital aspect of Healing Center programming, while our residents have been re-traumatized by police and CGL security as they tend to their traplines.
“Being out here trapping on the territory is healing to me. Its reviving the teaching that I received from my uncle as a kid growing up. Being able to do all of this on my own during my healing journey is more than a blessing. More than gold to me. Because I am able to pass this teaching on to the younger generation,” stated Johnny Morris, a Healing Center resident from the Gidumt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
CGL has still not obtained consent to conduct any work on our unceded territories. Our biggest concerns about this project are already manifesting themselves in the pre-construction phase, as CGL has demolished archaeological sites, destroyed traplines, destroyed property, and endangered and abused our residents. They continue to use their court injunction as a legal bludgeon to force their way into our territory while violating permits and protocols. Despite this precedent, we expect CGL to be held accountable under Canadian laws and regulations so that our trappers can carry out the rest of the trapping season unmolested.
Unist’ot’en have been trapping on this territory since time immemorial and will continue to do so. Our relationship with the animals on the territory we care for has been ongoing for millenia, and we have no intention of severing these ties. Our Hereditary Chief Knedebeas, who oversees this territory, first started trapping this area as a teenager, and this tradition is kept up today by Unist’ot’en house members, supporters, and those on the territory for healing.
Backed by both Canadian Law and ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en Law), we will ensure that the healing work we are conducting on our traplines can continue unabated, and that CGL will be held accountable to those laws.
Media Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Freda Huson, Spokesperson
Dark House – Unist’ot’en