B.C. RCMP exclusion zone set at Coastal GasLink site, protesters report arrests
Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs from left, Rob Alfred, John Ridsdale, centre and Antoinette Austin, who oppose the Coastal Gaslink pipeline take part in a rally in Smithers B.C., on Friday January 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
SMITHERS, B.C. -- Six people have been arrested as RCMP enforce a court injunction near the construction site of a natural gas pipeline in northwestern British Columbia, a spokeswoman for opponents of the project say.
Jen Wickham said Thursday she also expects more arrests as police clear the area around the pipeline construction site.
Wickham, who speaks for one of the five clans that make up the Wet'suwet'en Nation, said she spoke to Chief Supt. Dave Attfield at the RCMP detachment in nearby Houston who confirmed all six were at the detachment and were contacting lawyers.
Wickham said a convoy of about three dozen RCMP vehicles, an ambulance and heavy machinery started down the Morice West Forest Service Road southwest of Houston Thursday morning, past the camp where the six were arrested earlier in the day.
“I'm assuming that now they are trying to clear the road to get to the Gidimt'en camp and the Unist'ot'en camp, so we definitely anticipate more action today,” she says.
The B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an expanded injunction on Dec. 31 and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs responded by issuing the company an eviction notice in early January, saying the company was violating traditional Wet'suwet'en laws.
RCMP said Wednesday that they had delayed enforcing the injunction for weeks to seek a peaceful resolution, but they had no choice but to follow the court's orders.
Police asked protesters to either leave or choose to be arrested peacefully.
Also Thursday, hereditary chiefs filed an application for a judicial review of a five-year extension of Coastal GasLink's environmental assessment certificate, granted by the B.C. government.
Coastal GasLink president David Pfeiffer said in an open letter Thursday that the company is proud of its broad support from all 20 elected Indigenous governments along the pipeline path and is disappointed that it has not “found a way to work together for the benefit of the Wet'suwet'en people.”
“This is not the outcome we wanted,” Pfeiffer said of the RCMP enforcement of the injunction.
He said the company will move forward with its construction schedule.
“We will continue to search for opportunities for dialogue with the hereditary chiefs and the Unist'ot'en, to search for common ground that accommodates their concerns and benefits the Wet'suwet'en people,” Pfeiffer said.
An RCMP statement issued early Thursday said an exclusion zone was set up as the injunction enforcement action began.
“There will continue to be a marked increase in police resources in the Houston area, and patrols will be conducted on the ground as well as from the air to monitor the situation beyond the blockade of fallen trees and incendiary materials,” the statement said.
Enforcement began less than two days after the provincial government and First Nation failed to reach an agreement during talks intended to de-escalate the dispute.
Fourteen people were arrested as RCMP enforced a similar injunction on the forest service road in January 2019, but charges against the group were later dropped.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 06, 2020