VICTORIA – British Columbia’s public safety minister has condemned a blockade set up along a forestry road used by construction workers for the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.
Mike Farnworth says in a statement the province is calling for the de-escalation of the “confrontation” and the peaceful removal of the blockade set up Sunday by members of the Gidimt’en clan, one of five in the broader Wet’suwet’en Nation.
Farnworth says the blockade puts emergency access at risk for more than 500 workers, and threatens “good faith commitments made between the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and the Province of B.C. to develop a new relationship based on respect.”
A statement posted Sunday by members of the Gidimt’en clan gave Coastal GasLink workers eight hours to leave the area west of Prince George before the service road was closed, a move Farnworth says violates a B.C. court injunction.
The minister says the 670-kilometre pipeline project is nearly halfway complete and has all the provincial permits necessary for the work currently underway, as well as agreements with all 20 elected chiefs and councils for First Nations along the route.
Gidimt’en spokesperson Sleydo’, whose English name is Molly Wickham, says their hereditary chiefs have never ceded or surrendered the territory, and their opposition to the pipeline project sparked nationwide protests that stopped railways last year.
A memorandum of understanding signed since then between the federal and provincial governments and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs had eased tensions, but Sunday’s statement from the Gidimt’en clan says an “eviction notice” served to Coastal GasLink by the chiefs in January 2020 is now being enforced again.
The company is concerned for the safety of its workers “due to three new illegal blockades on the Morice River public forest service road blocking all exits and access to two lodges housing more than 500 of our workers, including Wet’suwet’en members,” Coastal GasLink said in a statement on Monday.
“We have made the RCMP aware of our concern about the safety of our workers due to these unlawful actions, the latest in a series of illegal opposition activity.”
The natural gas pipeline project is more than half finished with almost all of the route cleared and 200 kilometres of pipeline installed so far, the company said.