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Two arrested as protests renewed along B.C. Coastal GasLink pipeline

Protesters continue to block construction work at site south of Houston
A group of supporters pictured at the encampment located just before the RCMP access control checkpoint at kilometre 27 of the Morice West Forest Service Road from Feb. 5, 2020 show their support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their fight against CGL. (File photo/Houston Today)

RCMP late last week were negotiating with demonstrators who have taken control of a Coastal GasLink (CGL) construction site south of Houston, preventing workers from working on the project.

According to RCMP Corporal Madonna Saunderson, two arrests have been made.

“Houston RCMP were called in for a report that protesters had blocked access to a CGL pipeline site on the Pimpernel Forest2 Service Road near Houston, B.C on Sept. 20. Efforts have been ongoing to negotiate with the group to leave the area and allow CGL employees to continue with their work,” she said late last week.

“Two individuals have since been arrested; one on Sept. 26 for breach of the injunction and criminal code charges of obstruction and assaulting a police officer, and the other person was arrested on Sept. 27 for breach of the injunction.”

Protests last year against the pipeline where it crosses the territories of several Wet’suwet’en clans set off rail blockades across the country.

Protesters in the latest dispute issued a news release accusing police of using excessive force during arrests.

CGL workers are preparing to run the pipeline underneath the Morice River, something Wet’suwet’en and others are protesting, saying there will be environmental harm.

“Micro-tunnelling was determined to be the safest and most environmentally responsible method after thorough expert assessments, regulatory requirements and best practices,” said CGL president Tracy Robinson in a release.

“This is the most precise drilling method for this crossing and utilizes state-of-the-art technology.”

An open letter from more than two dozen archaeologists addressed to the B.C. Archeology Branch also criticized the Coastal GasLink work, saying the company and the B.C. government failed to properly consult the Wet’suwet’en and could lead to the destruction of Indigenous artifacts.

CGL parent TC Energy, which owns the project, disputed the accusations in a statement, saying it had engaged with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and had unearthed and saved artifacts under the supervision of a trained archaeologist.

Provincial Indigenous relations minister Murray Rankin said the pipeline project has been approved by elected Indigenous leaders and the provincial government is working with hereditary chiefs to come to an agreement about rights and titles.

The 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by both the province and all 20 elected First Nations councils along its path to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to a processing and export facility on the coast in Kitimat.

However, some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs claim the project has no authority without consent through their traditional system of governance.

The open letter signed by 25 archeology professionals and academics from Canada and the U.S. says the work and alleged damage at the Lamprey Creek site could have a large effect on future studies and consultation with the Indigenous groups would have shown that.

“You would have realized that the destruction of archaeological resources — non-renewable resources - … will result in the erasure of much of the context associated with Ts’elkay Kwe Ceek cultural landscape,” the letter said of the traditional name for the territory where the work is being done.

TC Energy’s statement said it is has worked with Indigenous communities and representatives to ensure work can be done safely.

“Coastal GasLink has engaged with Indigenous communities, to ensure open and constructive dialogue to protect Indigenous values and cultural heritage,” the company said.

(With files from Canadian Press/Nick Wells)

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Eddie Huband
Multimedia Reporter
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