RCMP including what appear to be Emergency Response Team (ERT) members climbing over main gate at Gidimt’en camp checkpoint Jan 7, 2019. 12 people have been reported arrested. Photo by Michael Toledano.
Coastal GasLink pipeline meant to transport natural gas to coast
by Chantelle Bellrichard, CBC News,
The RCMP have entered a fortified checkpoint on a forest service road in northern B.C. where people at the Gidimt’en camp were barring a pipeline company from access.
The Mounties announced Monday they were going to enforce a court injunction to allow Coastal GasLink access to the road and bridge near Houston, B.C.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline is meant to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coast where an LNG Canada facility is scheduled for construction.
Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have been preventing company workers from getting through their checkpoints, asserting they can only pass if they have consent from hereditary leaders.
An injunction was issued last month ordering people to stop preventing the company from gaining access to the area.
Coastal GasLink calls the camps along the route blockades. The Gidimt’en group says they are checkpoints where people can get through, if they have consent.
People at the camp have been anticipating the arrival of the RCMP since December’s injunction.
The RCMP broke down a gate at the checkpoint and stopped a few metres past it, standing face to face with the Gidimt’en camp and their supporters on a bridge, according to CBC’s Chantelle Bellrichard, who is at the scene.
A large RCMP operation has resulted in a reported 12 land defenders being arrested, Jan 7, 2019. Photo by Michael Toledano.
Five women from the camp were standing on a mound on the bridge overlooking the police with their arms linked, singing, Bellrichard told CBC Radio.
In a news release Monday, B.C. RCMP said in enforcing the injunction, temporary exclusion zones and road closures would be established “for police and public safety reasons.” The RCMP said no one would be allowed to enter the exclusion zones.
The release said residents would notice an increased police presence in the Houston area.
“We are very hopeful that there will not be violence or disorder as we enforce the court order; however, the safety of the public and our officers is paramount when policing demonstrations, particularly due to the remote area in which the bridge is located,” the release said
TransCanada has said it signed agreements with all First Nations along the proposed pipeline route to LNG Canada’s $40-billion liquefied natural gas project on the coast. But the hereditary leaders say those agreements don’t apply to the traditional territories.
“We want them right off Wet’suwet’en territory,” Chief Madeek said Sunday, referring to the proposed Coastal GasLink project.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Coastal GasLink said the injunction was “a last resort and a necessary action in our efforts to safely gain access to the Morice River Bridge, after years of attempting to engage the camp to work through a solution.
“As we have done in the past, we will continue to keep the lines of communications open to find a mutually agreeable solution.”
On Sunday, police said their main concerns in enforcing the injunction are “public safety, police officer safety, and preservation of the right to peaceful, lawful and safe protest, within the terms set by the Supreme Court in the injunction.”
The B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said in a statement the police enforcement of the injunction “is an operational matter for the RCMP and is entirely at arms length from government.
“We recognize the right for people to engage in peaceful protest. In any situation such as this, we hope all parties find a safe and mutually respectful resolution.”