The RCMP have set up an ‘access control checkpoint’ on the Morice West Forest Service Road as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs vow to stop construction of Coastal GasLink’s pipeline south of Houston.
In December the Supreme Court extended an injunction allowing the company to work on its $6.2 billion natural gas pipeline. That has prompted an escalation of opposition from the Wet’suwet’en.
According to a statement issued by the RCMP, Commanding Officer, Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Stratchan has been involved in a series of meetings that have taken place or are being scheduled with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, elected councils and other stakeholders. The RCMP won’t publicly discuss the details of those meetings however say they are pleased with the meetings so far, which has provided the opportunity to outline issues of concern and for the RCMP to explain our position, our understanding and role in this matter.
“It was emphasized that the primary concerns for the RCMP are public and officer safety,” according to the RCMP statement. “Our duty is to preserve the safety of everyone involved in this dispute, and to prevent further contraventions to the BC Supreme Court ordered injunction. As a result, an access control checkpoint has been established at the 27-kilometre mark of the forestry road. The purpose is to mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway, as well as to allow emergency service access to the area.”
As of January 13, 2020, procedures at the access control checkpoint will be as follows:
- Vehicles attempting to enter the Morice Forest Service area at the 27KM mark will be stopped and occupants will be provided a copy of the injunction.
- They will be informed of the checkpoint’s purpose and advised of the hazards, including roadway conditions.
- Occupants requesting entry will be required to state their purpose, and provide identification. Permission to enter must come from the RCMP’s Operations Commander or delegate. Persons permitted would generally include:
- All hereditary and elected chiefs;
- Elected and other government Officials;
- Journalists with accreditation from recognized media outlets;
- Persons providing food, medicine or other supplies or services required for the well-being and safety of persons behind the blockades;
- Other persons as approved by the RCMP Operations Commander or delegate.
- For purposes of safety, all persons entering must indicate their specific destination, estimated time of return and indicate their understanding of the hazards present. Vehicles and persons entering will be logged to ensure awareness of who has entered and safely exited. All other vehicles will be turned away.
- All occupants of vehicles exiting the area who were not already spoken to on their way in will be briefly detained per paragraph 10 of the BC Supreme Court injunction, asked for identification, and provided a copy of the court order before they are permitted to go on their way.
The RCMP has advised all stakeholders of these procedures at the access control checkpoint.
“We remain committed to facilitating the ongoing dialogue between Indigenous communities, Coastal GasLink and government, in the hopes that these efforts will result in a safe and peaceful outcome,” according to the RCMP statement. “This has been our focus and will continue to be our focus.”
The Wet’suwet’en chiefs, obviously, are opposed to the police action.
“This is a violation of our human rights, Wet’suwet’en law, and our constitutionally protected rights as Indigenous people,” reads a statement on the chiefs’ website.
The chiefs have submitted a formal request to the United Nations to monitor RCMP, government and Coastal GasLink and are blasting Premier John Horgan, who stated earlier this week that the pipeline will proceed.
“Ignoring B.C.’s commitment to ratify UNDRIP into law, and specifically our right to obtain free, prior, informed consent for industrial projects through our unceded lands, John Horgan has signalled that he supports the continued construction of Coastal Gaslink,” the chiefs posted on their website. “The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are gravely concerned that Horgan will respond to our grievances with militarized police instead of diplomacy.”