A group of Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline opponents is taking the company and RCMP to court for alleged intimidation and harassment.
In a notice of civil suit filed at the B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday, Janet Williams, Lawrence Bazil and Molly Wickham (also known as Sleydo’) say since February, police have waged a daily campaign of intimidation and harassment.
The claim says the RCMP used 29 arrests in November 2021 and a February 17 incident during which approximately 20 unidentified individuals allegedly threw objects at police and damaged company property as an excuse to engage in “conduct that reaches far beyond a lawful or reasonable investigation into these events.
”The suit focuses on police activities around two sites known as the Gidimt’en Checkpoint and Lamprey Village.
House chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Gidimt’en Clan established the Gidimt’en Checkpoint in 2018 to “reestablish occupancy of by members of the Gidimt’en Clan on territory their ancestors for thousands of years” and as an “important symbol of Wet’suwet’en resistance to the Pipeline Project and their dedication to protecting their traditional territory,” according to the claim.
It is located in a pullout at kilometre 44 along the Morice Forest Service Road (FSR) approximately 50 kilometres east of Houston.
On the other side of the Morice FSR, approximately 500 metres east is Lamprey Village, a collection of small wooden homes, canvas tents and trailers, as well as cleaning, cooking and dining facilities, that serves as home to and a base from which members of the Gidimt’en clan and others living there can engage in traditional cultural practices such as hunting, fishing, trapping, harvesting and tanning.
Residents of the village are currently constructing a feast hall that will accommodate 200-300 people.
The claim alleges members of the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), a special squad sent regularly to locations where there is conflict over land use, visited the checkpoint and village approximately 269 times between the beginning of March and the end of May.
It says regular and frequent activities have included, but not limited to, assaulting and battering residents and visitors, including the plaintiffs; disrupting cultural practices; interrupting construction of the hall; demanding photo identification from anyone trying to travel along the road; shining high beams in structures at all hours of the night; seizing equipment and property; destroying locks, chains, fences and gates; and threatening arrests.
The RCMP has had a regular presence in the area since early 2020 after Justice Marguerite Church granted CGL an injunction guaranteeing the company access to their work site along the Morice FSR.
In February 2020, police cleared a barricade of the road that led to solidarity protests across Canada including rail blockades.
“The true reason for the C-IRG campaign is to force or encourage the Plaintiffs and others to leave the Gidimt’en Checkpoint and Lamprey Village, to abandon their ancestral territory and cultural practices, and to permit CGL to advance the Pipeline Project unencumbered and without oversight or monitoring by the people on whose traditional territory the Pipeline Project is being built,” the lawsuit claims.
In a press release issued the same day as the suit was filed (June 22), the Gidimt’en Checkpoint cited an April 29 UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination letter to the Canadian and B.C. governments.
The letter rebukes Canada and B.C. for escalating “use of force, surveillance, and criminalization of land defenders to intimidate, remove and forcibly evict Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en Nations from their traditional lands…”
“The criminalization of Wet’suwet’en people is not the way to reconciliation,” the Gidimt’en press release states. “The Gidimt’en clan wants to see an end to the illegal harassment and intimidation of Wet’suwet’en people and homesites and for C-IRG to be immediately removed from Gidimt’en Territory.”
The RCMP told Black Press Media they have not been served (as of press time) with the claim and would only comment by way of an official response through the civil court process.
Coastal GasLink has yet to respond to a request for comment.
Also named in the suit are the B.C. minister of justice, who has responsibility for the RCMP; three unidentified police officers; Off Duty Services Canada, the private firm handling security for CGL; and Forsythe Investments, the parent company of Off Duty.
The claim outlines a more discreet harassment campaign by Forsythe and conspiracies to do so between the security company, CGL and police.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The suit seeks unspecified general, aggravated, punitive and other damages, as well as costs.