Canadian court finds Likhts’amisyu Clan Wing Chief Dsta’hyl guilty of criminal contempt for upholding Wet’suwet’en law

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Chief Dsta’hyl disables a Coastal Gaslink bulldozer. Photo by Michael Toledano.

Abolish CIRG has just posted: “Justice Tammen rules Dsta’hyl is guilty of criminal contempt. Referring to the Wet’suwet’en law of trespass vs the injunction: ‘The two legal orders cannot comfortably co-exist in the circumstances.’”

It adds: “Dinï ze’ Dsta’hyl is the highest ranking person to be charged for violating the CGL injunction. At his hearing, he argued that it was the injunction that was a violation of Wet’suwet’en law.”

The Abolish CIRG thread of ten tweets on this can be read here.

Amanda Follett Hosgood of The Tyee has also tweeted: “BC Supreme Court has found Wet’suwet’en Chief Dsta’hyl, Adam Gagnon, guilty of criminal contempt, rejecting a novel defence that rather than bringing the law into disrepute he was upholding Wet’suwet’en law on his traditional territory when interfered with pipeline construction. Rather than ‘harmonizing colonial law and Indigenous law,’ judge ruled that defence proposed ‘recognition of an imprecisely defined law of trespass to the exclusion of the Canadian law of contempt. The two legal orders cannot comfortably coexist in the circumstances.'”

Wing Chief Dsta’hyl arrested in October 2021

The Tyee has previously reported: “Chief Dsta’hyl, a wing chief of the Likhts’amisyu Clan who also goes by Adam Gagnon, was arrested Oct. 27, 2021, following an interaction with Coastal GasLink security on his clan’s traditional territory. Although he was originally taken into custody for mischief and theft over $5,000, Dsta’hyl now faces a charge of criminal contempt.”

That article adds: “BC Prosecution Service announced [in 2022] that it would proceed with criminal contempt charges against some of those charged in the pipeline conflict in October and November 2021.”

Enforcing Wet’suwet’en law

Grist has explained: “As a supporting chief from the Likhts’amisyu clan, Dsta’hyl had been tasked with enforcing Wet’suwet’en law in the area. Construction crews preparing to build a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory, without their consent — represented a blatant violation of those laws.”

A news release in 2022 from the Likhts’amisyu, one of five clans within the Wet’suwet’en nation, stated: “On October 27, Likhts’amisyu Hereditary Chief Dsta’hyl was arrested and forcibly removed from unceded Likhts’amisyu territory, along with Kolin Sutherland-Wilson of the Gitxsan Git’luuhl’um’hetxwit wilp. In observance of Wet’suwet’en trespass laws, Dini ze’ Dsta’hyl decommissioned 10 pieces of heavy construction equipment.”

Photo: Kolin Sutherland-Wilson. Photo by Michael Toledano.

It also notes: “On October 17, Lihts’amisyu Enforcement Officers — including Chiefs Tsebesa and Dsta’hyl — warned CGL employees they were trespassing and their equipment would be subject to seizure. Subsequently, Dini ze’ Dsta’hyl decommissioned an excavator, prompting CGL to remove all remaining heavy equipment from the Parrot Lake area in Likhts’amisyu territory.”

Grist provides this narrative: “After warning the on-site construction managers that they were trespassing, he arrived the next day and approached a pair of orange-vested security subcontractors employed by TC Energy, the company building the fracked gas pipeline known as Coastal GasLink, or CGL. He notified them that he would be seizing one of their excavators and then stepped onto the hulking vehicle and disabled it by disconnecting its battery and other components.”


Criminal contempt penalties can include fines or imprisonment.

The Criminal Code of Canada says: “A court, judge, justice or provincial court judge may deal summarily with a person who is guilty of contempt of court under this section and that person is liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ninety days or to both, and may be ordered to pay the costs that are incident to the service of any process under this Part and to his detention, if any.”

Sentencing for Chief Dsta’hyl has been set for 9 am PT on Wednesday March 6.

The UN on CGL

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has repeatedly called on Canada “to immediately halt the construction and suspend all permits and approvals for the construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline in the traditional and unceded lands and territories of the Wet’suwet’en people, until they grant their free, prior and informed consent, following the full and adequate discharge of the duty to consult.”

We continue to follow this with concern.

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