Potentially lethal guerrilla resistance tactics have triggered a criminal investigation into a native claims crusade to stop construction of TC Energy Corp.’s Coastal GasLink pipeline across northern British Columbia (BC).
Police patrols found three stacks of tires primed to burst into flames with Molotov cocktail-like ignition devices and trees sliced to become falling log traps at a touch in the contested area along a forest road 1,084 kilometers (650 miles) north of Vancouver.
The 670-kilometer (400-mile) natural gas pipeline would provide a conduit for up to 5 Bcf/d of Montney formation shale supply to be delivered to liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in BC, LNG Canada, on the Pacific Coast at Kitimat.
No arrests were disclosed but the protester faction was confronted with the incriminating evidence. A statement by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said, “These concerning items have been brought to the attention of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.” The chiefs “have also been advised that the RCMP has entered into a criminal investigation under Section 247 of the Criminal Code for traps likely to cause bodily harm.”
The section provides stiff penalties, with up to five years in prison for setting traps, 10 years if they cause injuries, 14 years if a death results, and life behind bars if the killer device was made as part of another criminal offense.
In addition to active creators of the prohibited dangers the Criminal Code section, penalties also apply to anyone who “being in occupation or possession of a place, knowingly permits such a trap, device or other thing to remain in that place.”
Coastal GasLink president David Pfeiffer repeated a standing invitation by the pipeline firm for truce talks to the protest leader, who uses the name Na’moks in his hereditary chief role but otherwise goes by John Ridsdale.
“Our primary concern is the safety of all users of this public forestry road, including those who wish to protest our activities,” Pfeiffer said. “Unlawful actions that put people at risk for serious harm are dangerous, reckless and unacceptable, and do not reflect peaceful protest.”
As the police discovered the traps, the protesters were also served with a 72-hour notice of enforcement of an injunction against interference with Coastal GasLink that the BC Supreme Court that was granted on Dec. 31.
The pipeline opponents are dissenters from cooperation and benefits agreements that Coastal GasLink made with all 20 elected tribal governments along the route of the C$6.6 billion ($5 billion) pipeline. The LNG export terminal is supported by agreements with the elected leadership of the native tribes concerned.
As the public representative of the dissenters, Na’moks-Ridsdale has repeatedly insisted his pipeline protester group only seeks to protect the safety, environmental and traditional tribal lifestyles of its member clans.
Private supporters have posted a taste of hard feelings that have contributed to the native claims crusade in an anonymously authored narrative of its decade-long evolution on websites of sympathizer groups such as EarthFirst! and Puget Sound Anarchists.
“While pipeline projects across the continent have all faced fierce resistance, the irrefutable sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en nation, united to uphold ’Anuc niwh’it’en [tribal law] and defend their yintah [territory], may prove to be a death blow to Coastal GasLink and the continued settler project of the Canadian state,” according to the protester narrative.