Thursday, 24 January, 2019

RCMP to enforce injunction for pipeline company access past Gidimt'en camp checkpoint

Activists call RCMP's plan to remove Indigenous blockade of B.C. pipeline an 'act of war' RCMP to enforce injunction for pipeline company access past Gidimt'en camp checkpoint
Priscilla Morrison | 08 January, 2019, 20:54

Both checkpoints - the Unist'ot'en blockade and the Gidimt'en checkpoint - are near Houston, B.C., about 620 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, and along the route of the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline. This is the one that was taken down Monday.

In a statement, the Mounties say they are enforcing an interim injunction issued by the B.C. Supreme Court in mid-December that ordered anyone who interferes with the Coastal GasLink project in and around the Morice River Bridge to remove any obstructions.

A pair of camps, built by clans in the First Nation, have popped up since the injuction was granted, showing their opposition to the planned project.

The pipeline by TransCanada subsidiary Coastal GasLink would carry natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat.

Members of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, which is made up of five clans that have 13 houses, have long protested construction of pipelines through the nation's 22,000 square kilometres of claimed traditional territory.

"Yesterday, members of the RCMP's Aboriginal Police Liaison met with Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs and indicated that specially trained tactical forces will be deployed to forcibly remove Wet'suwet'en people from sovereign Wet'suwet'en territory", the statement said.

They are also prohibited from threatening, intimidating or getting within 10 metres of anyone actively working on the project.

The RCMP says people in the Houston area would notice an increase in the number of police officers as a result of the action it is taking to enforce the injunction. When the discussions failed, RCMP moved in at around 3 p.m.

Several people, including spokesperson for the camp, Molly Wickam, have been taken into police custody and the blockade has been dismantled.

They allege officers saw a number of fires being lit along the roadway.

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The RCMP says it is responsible for enforcing the injunction filed against the Indigenous camp, but safety is its top priority.

Police say a temporary exclusion zone is now in place along the remote road and will be consistently re-assessed. Police had arrived in the area over the weekend, gathering in Houston and Smithers, the two municipalities closest to the checkpoints.

Instead of removing it, opponents set up a second checkpoint, the Gidimt'en checkpoint.

"We are now preparing for a protracted struggle", the protesters said in a statement before facing the RCMP. Wickham was one of the nine people arrested.

Tait says there had been concerns at the Unist'ot'en camp, citing a "tense climate" there with the possibility of demonstrators being removed for restricting access to the pipeline.

TransCanada filed for an injunction against the Wet'suwet'en First Nation and says it has "signed agreements" from 20 elected First Nation councils in the region, including the Wet'suwet'en.

"It is unfortunate that the RCMP must take this step so that lawful access for this public bridge and road can be re-established", he said.

Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, tweeted: "Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly and protest".

Jim Sinclair said the protests "will certainly have an influence on the wider community", comparing them to protests against the US involvement in Vietnam in the 1960s. "In any situation such as this, we hope all parties find a safe and mutually respectful resolution", he said.

"We are responding to and echoing a call on all people of conscience to act in solidarity through an global day of action on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019", read a post on the Climate Justice Edmonton Facebook page.

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