‘Toothless’ Noncompliance Order Offers Little to Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders
Coastal GasLink’s willful failure to follow its own legally-mandated Wetlands Management Plan and the toothless non-compliance order subsequently issued by British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) are yet further evidence that the Wet’suwet’en people and their land have little value in the eyes of corporate and colonial interests, the Unist’ot’en Camp warns in a release.
The Wet’suwet’en land defenders report that the EAO recently issued its non-compliance order against Coastal GasLink after revelations that the company had “cleared and levelled” nearly 80% of its pipeline right-of-way without following any of the site-specific mitigation protocols laid out in its own Wetlands Management Plan. The right-of-way passes through nearly 300 wetlands that are legally protected as “ecologically and socio-economically important,” notes the release.
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The EAO’s order requires a “cease and remedy” for all construction activities within 30 metres of the protected wetlands, and states “that further assessments must be undertaken for both the damaged wetlands and the wetlands yet to be impacted by construction”. But the Unist’ot’en release says the order is cold comfort to the Wet’suwet’en, given that the “Coastal GasLink Qualified Professionals” assigned to implement the order will be the “same Qualified Professionals who failed to properly assess these wetlands in the first place.”
In addition to failing to follow its own wetlands protocols, Coastal GasLink has ignored repeated requests from Wet’suwet’en leadership to “provide specific plans for how they plan to cross watercourses and wetlands in the territory, which are used heavily by Unist’ot’en Healing Centre clients and Wet’suwet’en members for hunting, trapping, and medicine gathering,” the release states.
The EAO determination shows that failure is “actually illegal under the Environmental Assessment Act, as it violates Condition 6 of the project’s Environmental Assessment Certificate,” the community asserts.
That the punishment for such violation should be so belated and ineffective—leaving the impression that the EAO puts Coastal GasLink’s construction timelines ahead of the public interest—is deeply disheartening, the release says. “Our lives, our culture, and our land are all disposable in CGL’s and the Canadian government’s eyes,” said community member Dr. Karla Tait, director of clinical programming at Unist’ot’en Healing Centre.