Charges dropped against B.C.’S LNG pipe­line op­po­nents

Pro­test­ers shut down rail and roads in weeks pre­ced­ing COVID-19 pan­demic

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION -

Crim­i­nal and civil con­tempt of court charges have been dropped against those who were ar­rested in Fe­bru­ary for vi­o­lat­ing an in­junc­tion while fight­ing the con­struc­tion of a nat­u­ral gas pipe­line in north­ern B.C.

The ar­rests of 22 mem­bers of the Wet’suwet’en Na­tion and their sup­port­ers sparked protests across the coun­try, shut­ting down rail and roads and putting a dent in the Cana­dian econ­omy.

The BC Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice said in a state­ment is­sued Fri­day that crim­i­nal con­tempt charges for those ar­rested near Hous­ton, B.C., will not be pur­sued.

The Crown says there have been no fur­ther breaches of the in­junc­tion, there wasn’t enough ev­i­dence link­ing those ar­rested to dam­age to a bridge and re­cent talks be­tween gov­ern­ments and the Wet’suwet’en hered­i­tary chiefs all played a role in their de­ci­sion.

Suzanne Wil­ton with pipe­line builder Coastal Gaslink said in a state­ment that in light of work pro­gress­ing in the area and on­go­ing talks with hered­i­tary chiefs, it won’t pur­sue civil con­tempt charges against the pipe­line pro­test­ers.

A post on the Face­book site Gitimt’en Ac­cess Point said while they are re­lieved that charges have been dropped, they know the RCMP ar­rests on un­ceded lands were un­law­ful.

The Gitimt’en is one of five clans within the Wet’suwet’en Na­tion and the site rep­re­sents a camp where some of the ar­rests oc­curred along a log­ging road to­ward the pipe­line work site.

“Coastal Gaslink con­tin­ues to tres­pass on our lands un­der the es­cort of the RCMP, who main­tain an il­le­gal re­mote po­lice de­tach­ment on Wet’suwet’en ter­ri­tory. We are treated as crim­i­nals on our own land,” the state­ment said.

The state­ment from Dan Mclaugh­lin of the BC Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice said the court was told that if fur­ther ev­i­dence was brought for­ward, other charges could be con­sid­ered.

Hered­i­tary chiefs and the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing last month that was ne­go­ti­ated amid the coun­try­wide block­ades, marches and en­camp­ments.

The hered­i­tary chiefs have op­posed the 670-kilo­me­tre nat­u­ral gas pipe­line through their ter­ri­tory, although five elected Wet’suwet’en coun­cils signed agree­ments with Coastal Gaslink ap­prov­ing the con­struc­tion.

The mem­o­ran­dum didn’t di­rectly ad­dress the chief ’s op­po­si­tion to the pipe­line but set up time­lines on ne­go­ti­at­ing ju­ris­dic­tion over land use plan­ning, re­sources, water, wildlife, child and fam­ily well­ness and other is­sues.

While some feared of ma­jor eco­nomic im­pacts from the rail block­ades that sprang up in re­sponse the ar­rests, Par­lia­ment’s spend­ing watch­dog later said they would leave a min­i­mal dent in the pace of eco­nomic growth.

The Par­lia­men­tary bud­get of­fi­cer’s re­port in mid-march es­ti­mates the block­ades will shave two-tenths of a per­cent­age point off eco­nomic growth for the first quar­ter, with the ef­fects dis­si­pat­ing through the rest of 2020.

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