Despite years of steadfast resistance led by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, TC Energy has begun drilling under Wedzin Kwa to install pipe for the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The Wedzin Kwa is a rare pristine river in the region, with water clean enough to drink untreated. Its headwaters are a critical spawning place for several salmon species, which have been a staple food for the Wet’suwet’en people since time immemorial. The Wet’suwet’en people have never ceded their title to this land, a fact which was affirmed by a 1997 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada. Yet the British Columbia provincial government continues to presume the authority to grant permits for industrial projects on Wet’suwet’en land without the consent of Wet’suwet’en traditional leaders.
The oil and gas industry seeks to make this route through northern British Columbia an “energy corridor” for multiple oil and gas pipelines connecting the Alberta tar sands and fracking operations in northeastern British Columbia to the Pacific port of Kitimat. For over 12 years, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have opposed this plan, and water protectors have put their bodies in the way of construction. Water protectors and their supporters have endured years of intense police harassment and three violent mass arrests. Many are currently facing charges of contempt of court for ignoring a court injunction ordering an end to direct actions against the pipeline. Pipeline construction continues despite Coastal GasLink’s multiple violations of environmental standards and massive fines owed to the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office.
As pipeline construction proceeds, during salmon spawning season, pray for the life of the river and all the beings it sustains. Pray for healing for the land and the people who defend it. Wet’suwet’en water protectors continue to pursue their rights in court and lead a campaign to pressure investors to withdraw financing for the pipeline.
While we are grieving, Turtle Island Solidarity Network members are also celebrating with our partners in Grassy Narrows. In 2002, youth from Grassy Narrows First Nation placed their bodies in the way of logging trucks to demand a halt to industrial logging on their territory. Twenty years later, the blockade stands, and logging companies that operate in the area have pledged not to log Grassy Narrows territory without the community’s consent. We celebrate the courage, determination, and wisdom of leaders from Grassy Narrows and the web of solidarity relationships that have led to this victory.