'There will be consequences': Province issues warning ahead of planned shutdown of B.C. government offices
VICTORIA -- B.C.'s public safety minister is warning anti-pipeline protesters who are planning a mass shutdown of government offices in Victoria that violence and lawlessness will not be tolerated.
Activists opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C. are organizing rallies and blockades at dozens of government offices in Victoria starting Friday morning.
The demonstrations would follow actions that saw hundreds of protesters gather at the B.C. legislature Tuesday, blocking entrances to the building as MLAs and staff returned for the start of the legislative session.
B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says the government is aware of the planned shutdown and is working with police to ensure the safety of government workers.
"If people engage in activities that cross lines of what is the norm in our society then there will be consequences," Farnworth told media at the legislature Thursday. "I expect the law to be fully enforced."
In a document circulating online, hundreds of activists have registered their intentions to demonstrate at government ministries and Crown corporations around the capital region Friday.
The Victoria Police Department says traffic disruptions are anticipated as a result of the actions.
"During previous protest incidents, protesters have moved without warning to blockade intersections, public roads and bridges," the department said in a statement Thursday. "Officers and resources are being deployed in anticipation of these actions."
The province has also cancelled events that were planned as part of the Family Day holiday at the B.C. legislature on Monday.
On Thursday, federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and B.C. Premier John Horgan said they are working to arrange meetings with Indigenous leaders in an effort to halt the ongoing blockades of rail lines that have choked Canada's economy.
Horgan publicly released a letter Thursday addressed to Simogyet Spookw, who also goes by Norman Stephens, a chief of the Gitxsan Nation in B.C. In the letter, the premier thanked the chief for reaching out to his office to propose a meeting with hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en Nation who are concerned about the pipeline.
“I confirm our government's willingness to participate in such a meeting,” Horgan said, adding that his office has urged the federal government to respond as quickly as possible to the proposal.
“I understand that on receipt of this letter and a similar commitment from Canada, the blockade of the CN line will be removed to allow for a period of calm and peaceful dialogue.”
A spokesman for the premier's office confirmed that Horgan is referring to a blockade set up near New Hazelton, B.C.
Blockade organizers across Canada have said they're acting in solidarity with those opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation near Houston, B.C.
Blockades were erected after the RCMP enforced a court injunction last week against Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters, who had been stopping construction of the pipeline, a key part of a $40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export project.
With files from The Canadian Press