Work on a controversial gas pipeline in northern B.C. was delayed on Thursday after crews allegedly found animal traps set on their construction site.
The work is being conducted near Houston B.C., as a part of the Coastal GasLink pipeline that would stretch from the Peace Region to Kitimat, and which has been the subject of opposition from some local Wet’suwet’en First Nations members.
Coastal GasLink says that on Wednesday, crews arrived at an ancillary site about 17 kilometres from the Morice Bridge to find a number of animal traps in the trees, and signs posted, warning workers that there were traps on the work site.
The company said it had previously notified trappers that work was being done in the area and that the site was off-limits.
The company says on Thursday work was shut down temporarily due to “safety concerns arising from a number of individuals entering an active construction site and the continued placement of traps.”
“Safety is our top priority. Accessing an active construction site where heavy equipment is at work and placing traps in an active construction site poses a threat to our people as well as those on the site unauthorized.”
In a statement posted to its website, the Unist’ot’en healing camp accused Coastal GasLink of bulldozing its trap lines and destroying its land.
“The destruction of our trap lines is a direct threat to the programming of our Healing Centre and the wellness of our clients. We know from our oral histories that this area, now being destroyed for a CGL man camp, has been used by our trappers for thousands of years.”
The RCMP confirmed that it had responded to complaints of possible violations of a court-ordered injunction protecting work in the area.
“Police officers from the Community-Industry Safety Office (C-ISO) that has been set up in the Morice West Forest Service Road corridor as requested by the Hereditary Chiefs, are currently investigating,” said Cpl. Madonna Saunderson in an email.
The incident comes two weeks after Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs brokered a deal with the RCMP to lift a blockade at the Unist’ot’en healing camp at the Morice Bridge and to abide by the court injunction.
However, the group says that agreement has been violated because the RCMP promised no “interference with our members regarding access to the territory for the purposes of trapping and/or other traditional practices.”
A group of Wet’suwet’en First Nations, headed by the hereditary chiefs, have been fighting the pipeline arguing that they were not adequately consulted and have not consented to it crossing their traditional, unceded territory.
The elected councils of all 20 First Nations bands along the pipeline’s route have signed agreements with Coastal GasLink, but opponents argue that elected councils’ authority is restricted to on-reservation matters, while hereditary chiefs have responsibility for traditional territory.
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