The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have entered into a criminal investigation following a number of safety hazards found along the Morice West Forest Service Road.
In a Jan. 8 press release police say they found partially-cut trees and tire stacks covered in tarps in close proximity to jugs of accelerants and fuel-soaked rags between the 39.5 to 44 kilometre points on the road while conducting foot patrols.
That stretch of the road is in close proximity to the Gidimt’en checkpoint, located at the 44-kilometre mark.
The RCMP say they are entering into a criminal investigation pursuant to Section 247 of the Criminal Code for Traps Likely to Cause Bodily Harm.
That section of the Charter states that anyone who “sets or places a trap, device or other thing that is likely to cause death or bodily harm to a person; or … being in occupation or possession of a place, knowingly permits such a trap, device or other thing to remain in that place” is guilty of an indictable offense and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years or is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
“[Officers] noted some trees that were partly cut in readiness for felling. This creates a hazard where these trees can fall unexpectedly due to wind,” the release reads.
“Three stacks of tires were also noticed in the vicinity of the fallen trees, each covered by tarps and trees, and containing several jugs of accelerants – gasoline, diesel, oil, kindling and bags full of fuel soaked rags.”
RCMP say the items of concern have been brought to the attention of the hereditary chiefs and they have been advised of the criminal investigation.
“While the RCMP respects the rights of individuals to peaceful, lawful and safe protest, within the terms set by the BC Supreme Court in the injunction, our primary concerns are public and police officer safety,” the release continued.
“We will take steps to ensure that those who unlawfully interfere with or threaten the safety of any person or property may be held accountable in accordance with the laws of Canada. This applies to demonstrators, industry employees and contractors, as well as the general public.
“We want to emphasize that we are impartial in this dispute and our priority is to facilitate a dialogue between the various stakeholders involved. We remain hopeful that these efforts will result in a resolution.”
Coastal GasLink (CGL) addressed the RCMP statement in a Jan. 9 media release, with President David Pfeiffer called the findings extremely disappointing.
“Coastal GasLink respects the rights of individuals to peacefully and lawfully protest so long as their activities do not jeopardize the safety of the public, our employees, our contractors, or the RCMP,” said Mr. Pfeiffer.
“Our primary concern is the safety of all users of this public forestry road, including those who wish to protest our activities. Unlawful actions that put people at risk for serious harm are dangerous, reckless and unacceptable, and do not reflect peaceful protest.
“Once again, I invite Chief Na’Moks to meet with Coastal GasLink so we can try to find common ground and a mutually agreeable solution that ensures the safety of all involved and that results in a peaceful resolution.”
It is currently unclear who placed the hazards in the location.
In a Jan. 7 press conference hereditary chief Na’Moks addressed the felled trees, however at that time the presence of the safety hazards cited by the RCMP in their press release were not known to The Interior News.
“Those trees that were put across the road were for our safety,” he said. “We must look at the history of the RCMP one year ago and what they did to our people and the guests in our territory.
“Last year when they came in with their armed personnel willing to shoot our people. Do we want that again? This is for our safety, we have done this.”
The Interior News has reached out to the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs for comment on the RCMP’s announcement they are entering into a criminal investigation following the discovery of the hazards outlined in their press release.