The Crown will proceed with criminal charges against 15 of 27 protesters arrested last fall near a Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline worksite in the Houston area.
Prosecutor Trevor Shaw told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church on June 1, that the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) would be charging the 15 with criminal contempt for breaching the Court’s 2019 injunction by participating in blockades and other anti-pipeline activities between September and November 2021.
Among the 15 is the Likhts’amisyu Clan’s Chief Dsta’hyl (Adam Gagnon), who was arrested Oct. 27, 2021 and charged with theft over $5,000 for allegedly decommissioning Coastal GasLink equipment while serving an eviction notice to company employees.
Not among the 15 was Sley’do (Molly Wickham), who has been at the forefront of the opposition to the natural gas pipeline crossing Wet’suwet’en territory in general and, in particular, drilling under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River).
Shaw said with respect to 10 of those not charged, prosecutors need another four weeks for review, which “will focus on the defendants’ knowledge of the terms of the injunction, taking into account the way that those terms may have been communicated to them.”
The Crown will not proceed with criminal charges against two individuals, Alexis Koome and Jay Myers, who were arrested Nov. 29 for blocking the road to the worksite.
“While these last two individuals were involved in conduct that potentially infringed the injunction, there is insufficient evidence of their awareness of its terms – required for a substantial likelihood of conviction,” Shaw said.
In a Facebook post May 29, the Gidim’ten Checkpoint said CGL had asked for the criminal charges.
“CGL has asked for the Attorney General to intervene and pursue criminal contempt charges against our land defenders for upholding Wet’suwet’en law,” the post stated. “The colonial courts want to criminalize us for enacting our sovereign right to defend our sacred headwaters, Wedzin Kwa, and all clean drinking water for everyone downstream.”
In a statement posted to its website late yesterday (June 1), the company did not confirm it had asked for the prosecution but said it agrees with the decision.
“At Coastal GasLink the safety of our workforce, their families and the Indigenous and local communities is our number one priority, therefore we agree with the decision from the Crown to pursue criminal charges and hold the contemnors accountable for their actions.”
CGL went on to say they have endured an escalating pattern of disruptive actions since December 2018 culminating in February with what the company describes as a “violent attack (February 17) on our workers by a group of masked, axe-wielding assailants at the Morice River Drill site.”
No one was arrested in that incident and it is not related to the June 1 hearing. Cpl. Madonna Sauderson, a spokesperson for RCMP in northern B.C., said June 2, the investigation is ongoing.
In court documents provided by Daniel McLaughlin, communications counsel for the BCPS, the Crown said the proceeding June 1 was related to an invitation by the Supreme Court to consider criminal contempt charges.
“Since receiving the invitation, the BCPS has worked closely with the RCMP to obtain investigative material and has considered correspondence from (Frances) Mahon, counsel for a number of the defendants, dated May 27, 2022, and from the BC Union of Indian Chiefs dated April 14, 2022,” it said. “Crown Counsel have applied both the evidentiary and public interest tests found in our civil disobedience (CIV1) and charge assessment (CHA1) policies.”
This is the first time the Crown has decided to pursue criminal charges since police started enforcing the court injunction in February 2020.