RCMP say they are hoping for the peaceful enforcement of a court order calling for an Indigenous anti-pipeline protest camp to stop blocking pipeline construction in northern B.C.
The statement comes after protest organizers had said on social media that they feared a ‘full-scale’ RCMP invasion of the camp.
Dozens of Indigenous peoples and supporters have been gathered at a key access point on Gidimt’en territory for months as they seek to stop the Coastal GasLink pipeline from going through their lands.
The anti-pipeline camp is set up at the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en lands to protest the pipeline, south of Smithers and west of Houston.
The proposed 670 kilometre pipeline is expected to move natural gas from Dawson Creek to the newly-approved LNG Canada export facility near Kitimat.
In December, a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted the extension of an interim injunction against two First Nations camps that have been blocking the access to a LNG construction site in the northwestern B.C. community of Houston for several weeks.
According to Cpl. Madonna Saunderson, police are in charge of enforcing the injunction but it is up to “RCMP discretion to decide how and when to enforce the injunction.”
“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 said in a statement.
UPDATE: Bystanders now say there are more and more RCMP gathered at the #HoustonBC detachment. Indigenous protesters at a nearby anti-pipeline camp continue to worry about “full scale” police action.#bcpoli@BlackPressMedia https://t.co/MUCB8k0AUu pic.twitter.com/My1lnUoiyL
— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) January 6, 2019
The injunction was originally granted to Coastal GasLink on Dec. 14 against the Unist’ot’en camp, another protest camp that describes its efforts as a re-occupation of Wet’suwet’en land.
The Gidimt’en camp is set up near the Morice River bridge and blocks access to pre-construction works for the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Saunderson said police are “very hopeful that there will not be violence or disorder” as they enforce the injunction but that the safety of police officers and the public is “paramount.”
“Our priority has been a commitment to open dialogue and our members have engaged with those leaders and Indigenous communities directly connected with the Unist’ot’en camp,” Saunderson said in a statement.
TransCanada, the builders of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, announced in September that all 20 First Nations groups along the length of the pipeline route have now signed a project agreement.
But Indigenous protesters say they were not consulted about the project, and are just trying to protect Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.
The Gidimt’en are one of five clans that make up the Wet’suwet’en, who were the winners in a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision that asserted the First Nation’s land rights and titles had never been extinguished.
On a Facebook page dedicated to the Wet’suwet’en Access Point, organizers said Sunday they’ve received “numerous credible tips” about a “massive police buildup in Wet’suwet’en territories.”
“We face the real and imminent threat of forcible removal from our own homelands,” the post reads.
Saunderson said there was “less than half a dozen” officers in the Smithers area currently, but said the public “may notice an increase in [police] resources” near the protest camps in the coming weeks.
An international day of protest is planned for Jan. 8, with B.C. rallies scheduled at the Supreme Court buildings in Vancouver and at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria.