BC Ferries has been granted a preemptive court injunction to prohibit Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters from blocking any of its terminals.
Spokesperson Deborah Marshall said the company sought the injunction after hearing plans of a protest at the Swartz Bay terminal near Victoria this weekend.
“We viewed this as a last resort,” she said. “We obtained it in the interest of public safety, but our concern was for customers being able to access our terminals.”
The injunction is open-ended with no timeline for when it expires and applies to any protests connected to the fight over the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C.
Marshall said BC Ferries is working on creating protest areas for demonstrators to gather and “be highly visible” without blocking access to the ferries themselves.
“We certainly respect the rights of individuals to peacefully express their views, as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the safety of our customers and employees,” she said.
Protesters blockaded the Swartz Bay terminal on Jan. 20 both on Highway 17 and from the water in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink project.
The protesters said they targeted B.C. Ferries “because of the corporation’s deepening integration with the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry.”
The January protest came before RCMP moved into the blockade camps set up by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who are in solidarity with the chiefs, arresting nearly 30 people.
Since that police action, several other First Nations and protest groups acting in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs have blocked rail lines and ports across the country in an effort to disrupt the Canadian economy.
The $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink project is meant to carry liquefied natural gas from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat.
The company has signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected Indigenous councils along the route.
But hereditary chiefs who oppose the project say elected councils only have jurisdiction over First Nations reserves. The hereditary chiefs claim authority over rights and title to land that was never covered by treaty.