The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has arrested 14 people and entered a checkpoint at a Wet’suwet’en First Nation fortified camp to prevent construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in British Columbia.
Earlier Monday morning, the RCMP indicated that it intended to enforce an injunction to allow TransCanada to access a forest road and begin construction of the pipeline.
The project faces opposition, and members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have camped near the municipality of Houston in the north of the province to block workers’ access to the site. They argue that the company did not obtain the consent of its hereditary chiefs to proceed with the project. For its part, TransCanada says it has signed agreements with all First Nations along the pipeline route.
In a statement released on Monday, the RCMP said temporary exclusion zones will be put in place as well as road closures for the police and for public safety reasons. The RCMP maintains that no one will be able to visit these areas.
“We hope there will be no violence or disorder when we enforce the order of the court. However, the safety of the public and our agents is of paramount importance at police-monitored demonstrations, especially in the remote location where the bridge is located, “the statement said.
A 700 km pipeline
The Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project is expected to expand over approximately 700 kilometers and cross Aboriginal lands between Dawson Creek and Kitimat, where LNG Canada’s $ 40-billion liquefied natural gas project is to take place.
In December 2018, Coastal GasLink obtained an injunction to force opponents to stop blocking access to the site for preparatory work. In an email sent to CBC on Monday, TransCanada explained that this was a last resort measure to have secure access to the site after years of talks.
Support to opponents
Demonstrations in support of the First Nation are planned in a dozen cities across the country, including Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver on Tuesday. In the latter city, a protest is to take place in front of the offices of Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
British Columbia’s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development, Doug Donaldson, visited the Aboriginal camp on Sunday and offered a box of goods. He said he would talk to the hereditary chiefs and suggested that he supported them, according to Molly Wickham, a member of the Gidimt’en clan. The politician did not talk to the journalists on the spot.
By email, the province’s Ministry of Public Safety said Monday it hoped the two sides would find a safe and respectful solution.