Coastal GasLink, the TransCanada Corp. subsidiary that is building the $6.2 billion natural gas pipeline for the LNG Canada project, has filed for a court injunction against the Unist'ot'en protest camp south of Houston, B.C.
As part of a permanent occupation that has been in effect since about 2010 to block a number of pipeline projects, the Unist'ot'en have blockaded Morice River Bridge, which is part of a public access road.
Coastal GasLink says it needs to get across the bridge to begin work on the pipeline, the corridor for which is about one kilometre from the Unist'ot'en occupation camp.
The company has named leaders of the camp in their injunction application, which is to be heard December 10 in Prince Rupert.
In a press release, Coastal GasLink said the decision to file for an injunction “was not taken lightly.”
“Unfortunately, after years of attempting to engage the blockade to work through a solution, this step has become a last resort and a necessary action in our efforts to safely gain access to the area.”
According to a Unist'ot'en news release, the company has also filed what they call a “SLAPP suit” (strategic lawsuit against public participation) against the occupation’s leaders in the form of a claim for damages.
The Unist'ot'en are a clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, which has a benefits agreement with TransCanada on the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
But the Unist’ot’en themselves remain vigorously opposed to any pipeline development in what they say are unceded lands.
“The Unist’ot’en Camp is not a blockade, a protest, or a demonstration – it is a permanent, non-violent occupation of Unist’ot’en territory, established to protect our homelands from illegal industrial encroachments and to preserve a space for our community to heal from the violence of colonization,” the group said in a press release.
The most recent addition to the Unist'ot'en occupation camp is a three-storey healing lodge.
A spokesperson for Coastal GasLink said the camp is not in the pipeline corridor, so it would not require any buildings to be removed. The company simply needs for the bridge to be opened so they can get crews across it to begin work on the pipeline.
“Our pipeline is one kilometre south of that bridge and that camp, so it does not run directly in that camp,” said Jacquelynn Benson, a spokesperson for Coastal GasLink, said. “We need that access road to finish some last minute fieldwork.
“We need to be able to cross that road because it’s the only access point that we can get to, to move the equipment in to start construction.”