APTN National News
A caravan of Royal Canadian Mounted Police cars moved up the Morice River Service Rd and made several arrests of First Nation land defenders who had set up roadblocks on Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia, Canada.
“A total of 14 individuals were arrested today for breaching the injunction,” said a statement from the RCMP on Thursday. “They were transported to the Houston RCMP Detachment for processing and will be held in custody to appear before the BC Supreme Court” on Friday.
Coastal GasLink says that 500 of its workers have been stuck behind the blockades that were set up on the road.
Police called the operation “an effort to rescue hundreds of workers.”
“Today’s enforcement was dictated by the actions taken by protesters that blocked the Morice River Forest Service Road that jeopardized the safety and wellness of hundreds of people whose provisions were at critical levels,” said Assistant RCMP Commissioner Eric Stubbs after the arrests were made.
The blockade was set up Sunday by citizens of the Gidimt’en clan, one of five in the Wet’suwet’en Nation, cutting off access for more than 500 pipeline workers. The workers had been given eight hours’ notice to leave, the group said in a statement.
Gidimt’en spokesperson Sleydo’, whose also goes by the English name Molly Wickham, said the court-ordered injunction has no authority on their land.
“They are trespassing, violating human rights, violating Indigenous rights and, most importantly, they are violating Wet’suwet’en law,” she said in a video shared online.
A statement released Wednesday by the Indian Act elected Wet’suwet’en council said the protesters didn’t consult with them before blocking the road and their actions “can’t claim to represent the members of the Gidimt’en or any others in the First Nation.”
The RCMP said in a statement earlier on Thursday that they had “serious concerns” with protesters cutting down trees, vandalizing heavy machinery and damaging the forest service road in an effort to prevent industry and police from getting through.
The dispute over the natural gas pipeline flared previously in 2019 and 2020, and protesters who defied the court injunction were arrested.
Opposition to the pipeline among Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs at the time sparked solidarity rallies and rail blockades across Canada last year. The elected chief and council of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and others in the area had approved the project.
Since then, a memorandum of understanding has been signed between the federal and provincial governments and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, easing tensions up until now.
The RCMP said they have set up an access control point on the Morice Forest Service Road to prevent further escalation of the situation and to mitigate safety concerns.
Coastal GasLink said in statements throughout this week that it was concerned for its workers, who were at risk of running out of water and other supplies.
The pipeline that would transport natural gas from Dawson Creek in northeastern B.C. to Kitimat on the coast is more than halfway finished with almost all of the route cleared and 200 kilometres of pipeline installed so far, the company said.