News from Canada

‘An act of war’: Gidimt’en clan prepares for police raid on Wet’suwet’en Territory

Kathleen Martens
APTN News
The RCMP is planning ‘an act of war’ to remove Indigenous protesters from blocking construction of a natural gas pipeline in northwestern B.C., says one of the clans involved.

The clan that has been maintaining a checkpoint keeping Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada Corp., off traditional Wet’suwet’en Nation territory south of Houston, B.C. posted a message on Facebook Saturday that police are planning to ‘forcibly remove’ them.

“(They) indicated that specially trained tactical forces will be deployed to forcibly remove Wet’suwet’en people from sovereign Wet’suwet’en territory,” said a post on the Gidimt’en clan Facebook page.

“Police refused to provide any details of their operation… including the number of officers moving in, the method of forcible removal, or the timing of deployment.”

The Gidimt’en post said they met Friday with members of the RCMP Aboriginal Police Liaison unit and learned action to enforce a court injunction is imminent.

But no further details were given, the Gidimt’en said.

“By rejecting the requests for information… the RCMP indicated that they intend to surprise and overwhelm the Wet’suwet’en people who are protecting their territories on the ground,” the post added.

“The RCMP’s ultimatum, to allow TransCanada access to unceded Wet’suwet’en territory or face police invasion, is an act of war.”

The checkpoint is 20 kilometres from the Unist’ot’en Camp. It was established 10 years ago along the route of three proposed pipelines, including the one Coastal Gaslink is building, in an effort to stop them.

It has since become a land-based wellness centre on the shores of the Morice River, close to the pipeline route.

The pipeline will carry fractured natural gas from Dawson Creek 647 kilometres to coastal Kitimat where it will be processed and shipped.

Camp members have the support of five hereditary chiefs in rejecting fossil fuel development and that’s why they have refused to allow Coastal GasLink employees to cross the Morice River bridge.

The company turned to the courts and won an interim injunction on Dec. 14 giving it access to the bridge across the Morice River and one kilometre down the road from the camp where the pipeline will run.

The injunction gives the RCMP the power to back up the court order.

The company has said in previous correspondence with APTN News that it only wants access to its construction camp and is not asking for the camp to be cleared.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church agreed work should not be delayed further on the $40 billion construction project.

Both sides are due back in court in late January.

But the Gidimt’en believe the RCMP will move in before then.

“In these injunction decisions, the court gives the order, and then the police determine how to implement the court’s direction within a reasonable time,” RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said in an email to APTN.

“The primary concerns of the police 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.”

Saunderson added the RCMP hope “there will not be violence or disorder as we enforce the court order.”

A spokesperson for Coastal GasLink did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The elected chiefs and councils of the five Wet’suwet’en bands have approved the pipeline.

kmartens@aptn.ca

@katmarte

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