Land defenders receive $500 fine and 25 hours of community service for support of Wet’suwet’en struggle against CGL pipeline

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo by The Narwhal.

CBC reports: “A B.C. Supreme Court judge sentenced five protesters Monday [December 12] who pleaded guilty to criminal contempt of court for ignoring a court order forbidding them from blocking access to a controversial northern B.C. pipeline.”

“Amanda Wong, Joshua Goskey, Nina Sylvestor, Layla Staats and Skyler Williams were part of a larger group of protesters who blocked access to the camp where Coastal GasLink employees were building the 670-kilometre-long pipeline.”

“Justice Michael Tammen accepted a joint submission from the Crown and the lawyer for all five Coastal GasLink opponents, which resulted in a $500 fine for three of the accused and 25 hours of community service for two others.”

“Williams, Staats and Sylvestor all chose to pay the fine, while Goskey and Wong opted for service.”

The article further notes: “It was the first time anyone has been convicted of criminal contempt in relation to the protests.”

“Previous arrests have resulted in citations for civil contempt, but it wasn’t until last spring that the Crown decided to move ahead with criminal proceedings — which arises from public defiance of a court’s order.”

And it highlights: “Another 13 protesters are also facing criminal contempt proceedings in relation to the arrests. At previous hearings, [defence lawyer Frances] Mahon has indicated that they plan to contest the charges on grounds related to alleged breaches of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Injunctions vs Delgamuukw

The land defenders were sentenced for their contempt of an interlocutory (temporary) injunction granted by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in December 2019 that prohibits Wet’suwet’en land defenders from impeding Coastal GasLink workers.

Yellowhead Institute research director Shiri Pasternak has noted: “When the court refused to recognize Wet’suwet’en hereditary authority, [the land defenders] become de facto lawless and so are labelled and treated as criminals. So, a spectre of danger around these supposed criminals is created by the RCMP and other actors.”

Significantly, Pasternak asks: “But how can [a provincial court] injunction override [Delgamuukw] a Supreme Court [of Canada] decision [on December 11, 1997] that recognized hereditary leaders as the proper title and rights holders?”

Kate Gunn at First Peoples Law has also commented:

“The trends in injunctive relief run counter to established Canadian law. The Supreme Court has been clear that Indigenous peoples’ exclusive occupation of their ancestral lands is both part of the test for establishing Aboriginal title, and a right that flows from title. Rather than undermining the rule of law, Indigenous peoples’ efforts to prevent unwanted development on their lands should be viewed as an expression of Aboriginal title based on requirements articulated by the Supreme Court.”

United Nations

While the court focused on the injunction, we recall that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has repeatedly called on Canada to stop construction of the CGL pipeline and remove the RCMP from Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Committee oversees the compliance of States with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Canada is a signatory to that Convention.

PBI-Canada was present in Smithers, both at the courthouse and the RCMP detachment, on Friday November 19, 2021, as the defenders sentenced yesterday had their first court appearance and then were released after their arrests the previous day.

To date, there have been 90 arrests of 80 different people in relation to opposition to the construction of this pipeline.

Among the 13 people still facing charges is Wet’suwet’en land defender Sleydo’. We will be present in Montreal when she and other Wet’suwet’en land defenders are at the RBC Building at Place Ville Marie on Friday December 16. has documented: “RBC is among top commercial banks providing the CGL project with working capital, including CAD $275 million in project finance, a co-financed $6.5 billion loan, a $40 million corporate loan, and $200 million in co-financed working capital – while acting as financial advisor for the pipeline.”

Categories: News Updates

1 Comment

Criminalization of land defenders continues as 4th anniversary of RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory approaches - Peace Brigades International-Canada · January 6, 2023 at 2:43 pm

[…] CBC has reported 13 land defenders face criminal contempt proceedings in relation to the RCMP arrests on November 18-19, […]

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