Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs lead a march in mid-January down Smithers Main Street in opposition to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline. (Chris Gareau photo)

Crown won’t pursue charges against 14 pipeline opponents in northern B.C.

Some members of the Wet’suwet’en have said Coastal GasLink has no jurisdiction

The B.C. prosecution service says it does not have enough evidence to pursue charges of criminal contempt against 14 people who were arrested in January when RCMP enforced an interim court injunction at a pipeline blockade on the Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s traditional territory.

The prosecution service says in a statement submitted to the B.C. Supreme Court in Prince George that the cases were referred to it for potential prosecution of criminal contempt on Feb. 4.

After a review, it says it is not satisfied there is enough evidence for a substantial likelihood of conviction.

It says those charges are separate from Criminal Code charges arising from the same events and it has approved a charge of assaulting a police officer with a weapon against one of the 14 individuals arrested.

READ MORE: Members of B.C. First Nation plan new camp to block natural gas pipeline path

Police made the arrests on Jan. 7 as they enforced an injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink, which is building a natural gas pipeline from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat.

The company says it has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation governments along the pipeline path, but some members of the Wet’suwet’en have said it has no jurisdiction without the consent of its hereditary chiefs.

In the statement, Crown counsel Trevor Shaw says the decision not to pursue the charges relates to whether information was available on the injunction.

“One element of criminal contempt relates to knowledge (whether direct, inferred or otherwise) of the terms of the injunction,” he said.

“After a review of the evidence at this point, the BCPS is not satisfied that there is the necessary evidentiary basis for a substantial likelihood of conviction.”

The injunction originally included a term requiring that a copy of the order be posted on the company’s website, as well as near a bridge where the pipeline opponents and members of the First Nation had established a gate on the logging road that Coastal GasLink needs to access for its project.

But the prosecution service says the required posting at the bridge was deleted by order of the court on Jan. 4.

READ MORE: B.C. chief says they didn’t give up rights for gas pipeline to be built

The events on Jan. 7 were also dynamic and did not include various steps or actions relating to notice that might have arisen in a different context, the statement said.

The Canadian Press

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