Hereditary Chief explains to RCMP that Supreme Court’s Delgamuukw decision trumps lower court injunction
Photo: A Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief explains the significance of the Delgamuukw decision to the RCMP on Gidimt’en territory in British Columbia, Canada.
Gidimt’en land defenders and allies are currently blocking Coastal GasLink (CGL) from drilling under the Wedzin Kwa river for their fracked gas pipeline.
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are at the site in solidarity with the land defenders stopping the heavy equipment from being used at the river.
In this 10-minute video posted on Instagram, an RCMP officer at the drill site notes a civil court injunction that prevents land defenders from obstructing CGL.
One of the hereditary chiefs responds: “The injunction completely ignores the Delgamuukw case. …If you want to follow the law, follow the law. Don’t follow the lower court’s decision, you go to the highest court every time.”
He adds: “We are the Hereditary Chiefs. We have authority here.”
Injunction vs Supreme Court ruling
Justice Marguerite Church of the British Columbia Supreme Court issued an interim injunction in December 2018 and an interlocutory injunction in December 2019.
Significantly, Briarpatch has noted: “Injunctions are meant to be temporary, lasting only until a trial can decide the issue in question.”
No date has been set for that trial, nor is it in the interests of CGL to have a trial given they have access to the RCMP to enforce the injunction despite its temporary nature and the passage of almost two years since it was issued.
Highlighting the Delgamuukw decision, Kate Gunn of First Peoples Law has stated: “What it did say was the province [of British Columbia], acting on its own, doesn’t have authority to extinguish Aboriginal title, that it continues to exist and that the Wet’suwet’en never ceded or otherwise gave up their title.”
Gunn and Bruce McIvor further explain: “The Supreme Court recognized that the Province’s authority to issue permits for Indigenous lands, including the type of permits issued for the Coastal GasLink pipeline, is not based on established legal authority.”
Gunn and McIvor add: “It is based on the fact that the Province has proceeded, for over 150 years, to make unilateral decisions about Indigenous lands. The fact that the Province has acted since the 1860s as though it has full authority to decide how Indigenous peoples’ lands are used does not make doing so legal or just.”
A short distance from where the hereditary chiefs were gathered, land defenders protect the Wedzin Kwa river from CGL’s heavy equipment.