This summer Coastal GasLink will pull pipe through concrete tunnel drilled under Wedzin Kwa on Wet’suwet’en territory
Michael Toledano tweet and photo: “At the site where a Wet’suwet’en cabin was burnt to the ground & 15 people were arrested, Coastal GasLink is preparing to drill beneath the Wedzin Kwa river. This would not be possible without the RCMP’s C-IRG unit, who cleared the way with snipers, carbines, dogs, & chainsaws.” (June 20, 2022)
On May 18, 2023, Coastal GasLink posted this Update on its website: “The micro-tunneling phase of the Morice River crossing has been safely completed and we are well past the river. Due to subsurface conditions, we are reducing the length of the micro-tunnel by 28 metres and beginning the construction of the exit point. This will involve clearing and excavation work in the coming days. This summer, pipe will be pulled through the concrete tunnel and connected with the rest of the project route on both sides of the Morice River.”
Drilling began in September 2022
The drilling under Wedzin Kwa began in September 2022.
On September 24, 2022, Gidimt’en Checkpoint tweeted: “Uphold your responsibility to stop the destruction of the last pristine water ways on earth. This is not over. You can hear her crying.” In this video with that tweet, you can hear the sound of the Coastal GasLink drill beginning to bore under the Wedzin Kwa river.
On October 19, 2022, Wet’suwet’en water protector Sleydo’ highlighted: “[The drilling at the site of our sacred headwaters] is happening now. The salmon are spawning in the river and you can actually hear the drilling happening from kilometres away. You can feel it in the ground, in the earth, from kilometres away. The salmon are spawning and you can feel the vibration of the drilling happening.”
On November 4, 2022, Wet’suwe’ten Hereditary Chief Na’Moks was threatened with arrest by CGL security, supported by RCMP C-IRG Staff Sergeant Jason Charney, when he attempted to exercise his territorial right to observe the drill pad site at Wedzin Kwa.
CGL had said the tunnelling time could take up to three months. It’s unclear why the work took nine months.
Lubricant spill while tunnelling
On April 13, 2023, CBC reported: “The B.C. Energy Regulator (BCER) is investigating after Coastal GasLink (CGL) reported two spills of clay lubricant while it was tunnelling under the Morice River to build a natural gas pipeline through northern British Columbia.”
The drill lubricant is bentonite clay.
The article adds: “Bentonite clay is fine particulate slurry used to install pipeline in the tunnelling process being used at the Morice River crossing. Turbidity — high levels of sediment suspended in water — can be deadly to fish and their eggs and destructive of habitat.”
In this brief statement, CGL provided few details on the spills and downplayed the impact: “One of the two clay deposits was identified in a small tributary on the west side of the Morice River. With winter conditions still present, there is little water flow in the tributary. The other deposit was located on land and has been isolated.”
CGL lacks the consent of the Wet’suwet’en
This work is being done without the consent of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, the governance body for these territories.
It is enabled by multiple raids and ongoing harassment by the RCMP community-industry response group (C-IRG) that resulted in the arrest of land defenders and journalists.
YintahAccess.com has noted: “In three large-scale police actions in January 2019, February 2020, and November 2021, a total of 74 people have been arrested and detained, including legal observers and members of the media.”
More than a dozen land defenders arrested by the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory in November 2021 are facing criminal contempt charges.
On January 13, 2023, APTN reported: “According to Sledyo’, five land defenders took a plea agreement last year. In 2023, thirteen Wet’suwe’ten and supporters are facing contempt charges for violating [a December 2019 court] injunction [that protects Coastal GasLink access to the Morice Forest Service Road].”
And the pipe being pulled under Wedzin Kwa is being done despite letters from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which has called on Canada to stop construction on the pipeline and seek the consent of the Wet’suwet’en peoples.
Their third letter – dated April 29, 2022 – called on Canada to provide a response to several concerns by July 15, 2022, including measures to: “Prevent and duly investigate the allegations of surveillance measures, practices of arbitrary detention, instances of excessive use of force against protesters, in particular those belonging to the Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en peoples, by the RCMP, CIRG, and private security firms.”
British Columbia budgets $36 million for more C-IRG actions
In March of this year, MLA Adam Olsen questioned the provincial Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth about a $36 million allocation to the RCMP C-IRG.
Farnworth replied: “What I want to tell him is that $36 million is over three years. It is based on an average that we have spent in this province over the last number of years in terms of dealing with the enforcement of court ordered injunctions.”
Farnworth added: “We put in place an average of what has been spent over the last number of years, and that is a three-year sum that the member is talking about. It works out to about — I think last year, it was around $11 million.”
We continue to follow this situation with concern.