Crown seeks 60-90 day jail sentence for Likhts’amisyu Clan Wing Chief Dsta’hyl for defending Wet’suwet’en territory

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Photo: Dsta’hyl on Likhts’amisyu territory. Photo by Mark West/Briarpatch Magazine.

The Terrace Standard reports: “The crown is seeking a 60-90 day jail sentence for Dsta’hyl’s interference in the [TC Energy Coastal GasLink fracked gas] pipeline’s construction. Dsta’hyl’s defence said they will ask for a non-custodial sentence.”

Amanda Follett Hosgood of The Tyee has also tweeted: “Defence is suggesting a fine or community service. When defence lawyer suggested she may request a discharge, she was reprimanded by the judge.”

Follett Hosgood adds: “The date for Chief Dsta’hyl’s sentencing will be set Friday [March 7] and is likely to take at least a day given crown and defence so far apart.”

She adds that Justice Michael Tammen said that “discharges are not granted in these cases, particularly around these kinds of facts”.

Defence lawyer Rebecca McConchie then stated: “Because the crown is seeking up to 3 months in jail, I have to provide information that’s relevant to the over-incarceration of Indigenous people in Canada, and the oppressive nature of the justice system, which is relevant, particularly where they’re seeking to incarcerate an elderly Indigenous person.”

As such, the McConchie asked for a Gladue report, that looks at circumstances such as these, that could take months to complete.

Follett Hosgood notes: “Possible sentencing dates could be in May or July.”

Crown seeking maximum sentence

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.”

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.”

Video: Chief Dsta’hyl and Sutherland-Wilson detained by the RCMP.

Resisting colonial mega-projects

On the PBI-Canada convened webinar this week, Sutherland-Wilson commented: “The most recent case of Dsta’hyl, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief of the Likhts’amisyu Clan, where he was the first of the Dini’ze to be charged with the violation of the Coastal GasLink injunction. And in that decision, the Justice [Michael Tammen] made it explicitly clear that they could not reconcile what they called imprecisely defined Wet’suwet’en trespass law with the Canadian courts which in this case was the injunctive relief order that was issued by the Supreme Court of Canada to essentially stop Wet’suwet’en resistance to the Coastal GasLink project.”

Tara Marsden, the Wilp Sustainability Director for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs, added: “Our learning [from the Wet’suwet’en experience of peacefully resisting the Coastal GasLink pipeline] is that consent only works when we say yes, if we say no, even if we say no with science behind us, and our knowledge and our laws behind us, then we will be met with force from the C-IRG [the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Community-Industry Response Group], from militarized invasion and occupation and intimidation and harassment.”

Further reading

Canadian court finds Likhts’amisyu Clan Wing Chief Dsta’hyl guilty of criminal contempt for upholding Wet’suwet’en law (February 20, 2024)

PBI-Canada hosts webinar on Gitxsan and Gitanyow resistance to colonial mega-projects (March 7, 2024)

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