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Wet’suwet members sue RCMP and Coastal GasLink for alleged harassment and intimidation

Written by Javed Iqbal

Members of the Wet’suwet Nation are suing the RCMP and Coastal GasLink for alleged harassment, which they claim to have suffered at the hands of police and private security, exceeding the limits of an injunction guaranteeing the construction of a controversial pipeline.

In a statement on civil claims filed in the BC Supreme Court on Wednesday, two elders and one of the leaders of the protests against Coastal GasLink say they have been subjected to a “relentless campaign of harassment and intimidation” on unoccupied territory next door a forest road leads to the pipeline facility.

Janet Williams, Lawrence Bazil and Molly Wickham – known as Sleydo ‘- claim that the courts gave Coastal GasLink an injunction that protected access through the road, but that order does not allow police to stop Wet’suwet people from “using, occupy and dwell on their land. “

“There’s a pretty stark contrast between enforcing an injunction and being in the territory for a specific legal reason and engaging in the kind of behavior that they have 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the last over three months now,” told Wickham. CBC.

“We seek compensation from all of these companies for the coercion and psychological harm and violation of our right to be on our territory and engage in cultural practices.”

‘It does not hinder traffic’

The 32-page Civil Claims Notice is centered on two locations along the remote Morice Forest Service Road – Lamprey Village and the Gidimt checkpoint.

The road leads to the site where Coastal GasLink is building a 670-kilometer natural gas pipeline that stretches from near Dawson Creek in the east to Kitimat in the west.

Sleydo’s Molly Wickham is one of three members of the Wet’suwet’s Nation who are suing the RCMP and Coastal GasLink for alleged harassment, which they claim they have suffered through police and security officers exceeding the limits of an injunction. (Jason Proctor / Zoom)

The company has signed benefit agreements with 20 band threads along the project route. But hereditary management in the Wet’suwet says band councils do not have authority over land beyond reserve limits.

The company received injunctions in 2018 and 2019 that prevented followers of the hereditary chiefs from blocking road access to the site.

According to the announcement of the allegation, the Gidimt checkpoint was set up in December 2018 in a retreat 10 meters south of Morice Forest Service Road as an “important symbol of the Wet’suwet’s opposition to the pipeline project.”

The claim says the checkpoint consists of at least a dozen buildings, including cabins, canvas tents and cooking facilities.

Lamprey Village is located about 500 meters to the east and is “occupied by members of the Gidimt’en clan in an attempt to re-establish a presence on their traditional territory.”

The lawsuit says the checkpoint is home to Williams and Bazil and “a place of regular cultural practice” for Wickham.

The Gidimt checkpoint in no way hinders travel along [road]”, reads the claim.

“Lamprey Village is barely visible from [road]. It does not impede traffic along [road] at all. “

‘An attempt to suppress legal activity’

The lawsuit alleges that police, Coastal GasLink, a security company and a subcontractor conspired to routinely share information, video footage and photographs as part of a “joint effort” to force the protesters away.

The court document cites incidents that began in February last year, which include entering the disputed areas several times a day, demands for image identification, “lighting high beams and spotlights into residential buildings at all times of the night”, seizure of equipment and property and implementation of illegal arrests and detentions.

Coastal GasLink’s gas pipeline crosses about 625 rivers, streams, waters, streams and lakes on its 670-kilometer route across the northern BC. (CBC News)

“They have been unreasonable and exaggerated, discriminatory on the grounds of race, malice and abuse of police powers,” the lawsuit states.

“They represent an attempt to suppress lawful activity and the assertion of the rights and title of natives.”

Wickham is one of 10 protesters currently waiting to find out if the BC Prosecution Service plans to proceed with allegations of contempt stemming from alleged breaches of the service road injunction last fall.

Earlier this month, the Crown decided it would charge 15 other protesters with contempt, but asked until July 7 to decide whether Wickham and nine others would also be convicted.

In an interview with the CBC, Wickham said the lawsuit filed this week presents another – but related – issue to the Prohibition campaign.

“There, they could claim that they had the legal authority to come in and make arrests based on the enforcement of the injunction,” she said.

“Once they have entered the village sites, they have no legal authority to do so. They have no jurisdiction to enter our private homes, our private homes. And so it has been something we have asked them all about. time is – ‘What is your authority to be here?’ “

The civil claims notice says officers have asserted their right to be on “crown land” or “check to make sure no one violated the terms.”

In a statement, a police spokesman said the RCMP has not yet been served on the claim but will provide “an official response through the civil court process” when they receive a copy.

Coastal GasLink has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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Javed Iqbal

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