A red dress attached to the 44 kilometre marker of the Morice River Forest Service Road where the Gidimt’en Clan has rebuilt an encampment and gate. The dress is a symbol signifying missing and murdered women. (Facebook photo)

Wet’suwet’en clan launches civil lawsuit against Coastal GasLink

Gidimt’en seeking damages and costs over destruction of logging road encampment and gate

The Gidimt’en (Wolf and Bear) Clan of the Wet’suwet’en are now taking civil action against Coastal GasLink (CGL), the company currently in the pre-construction phase of an LNG pipeline from Northeast B.C. to Kitimat.

A paralegal assistant at the Vancouver law firm of Chantler & Company confirmed the lawsuit was filed yesterday to the British Columbia Supreme Court and is currently being processed.

A Gidimt’en press release stated the clan is seeking special damages, aggravated damages, punitive damages, and costs with interest related to the enforcement on Jan. 7, 2019 of a Dec. 14, 2018 B.C. Supreme Court injunction allowing CGL access to the pipeline right-of-way the Unist’ot’en (Dark House) were blocking with an encampment south of Houston.

During that incident, 14 protesters were arrested, but the charges were later dropped.

READ MORE: Crown won’t pursue charges against 14 pipeline opponents in northern B.C.

“After the raid on Gidimt’en territory on January 7th, 2019, the RCMP occupied the Access Point camp at 44.5 km on Morice River FSR and stood by as CGL, Blastpro Construction and Domcor employees and their agents destroyed the private property of the Gidimt’en Clan,” the July 22 Gidimt’en press release stated.

The amount of the lawsuit has not been disclosed, but the press release suggests even if the clan wins, it will not be enough.

“These avenues of compensation do not even begin to approach the cost of the violence of these companies invading traditional Wet’suwet’en territory,” it read. “The spiritual and emotional traumas these companies have inflicted on the Wet’suwet’en are tremendous and grave. These acts of violence must not go unpunished or unrecognized in the courts.”

Legal fees are being funded, at least in part, by a GoFundMe campaign that was started after the Jan. 7 incident. As of today, it has raised nearly $231,000 of a $350,000 goal.

A spokesperson for CGL said they have not yet been served with the suit and will not comment until such time as that happens.

The encampment and gate on the Morice River road has since been rebuilt, but, according to the Ministry of Transportation and RCMP, the Gidimt’en are not impeding traffic.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en gate erected on Morice River road

The ministry delivered a letter June 27 requesting the gate be removed because it is an unauthorized structure.

“The Gidimt’en Hereditary Chiefs remain strong in the defence of their lands against oil and gas pipelines,” yesterday’s press release concluded. “The camp has been rebuilt and we are in need of ongoing support. We continue the fight during our seasonal harvesting, and in the face of continued industry invasion.”

A challenge to the 2018 temporary injunction is still before the courts.

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