The RCMP have cleared a blockade on the Morice Forest Service Road near Houston that had 500 Coastal GasLink (CGL) workers stranded since Sunday, according to the company.
The Mounties confirmed last night they arrested 14 people in the process, who were taken to the RCMP detachment in Houston and are scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court this afternoon (Nov. 19).
Yesterday, the RCMP said they were deploying a “marked increase in police resources” in the Houston area in response to the blockade that had been set up over the weekend by members of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en and supporters.
An earlier Facebook post on the Gidimt’en Checkpoint page stated 30 - 50 officers arrived in Smithers Nov. 17. Black Press Media has not been able to confirm the size of the force that was deployed.
“The road into our yintah remains blocked by RCMP at 28km, with hereditary chiefs, food, and medical supplies being turned away,” the Facebook post stated.
“In the middle of a climate emergency, as highways and roads are being washed away and entire communities are being flooded and evacuated, the province has chosen to send busloads of police to criminalize Wet’suwet’en water protectors and to work as a mercenary force for oil and gas.”
Police said the blockade was illegal and preventing Coastal GasLink pipeline workers from leaving and critical supplies from getting in.
“We have serious concerns that a number of individuals from out of province and out of country have been engaging in illegal activities in the area such as falling trees, stealing or vandalizing heavy machinery and equipment, and causing major destruction to the forestry road, all in an effort to prevent industry and police from moving through” said RCMP Chief Superintendent John Brewer, gold commander of the Community-Industry Response Group in a press release.
Coastal GasLink said in an earlier statement the forest service road and Lamprey Creek bridge have been significantly damaged.
“It has now been three days and supplies, including water, are at risk of running out and access to medical care in the event of an emergency continues to be obstructed,” the statement said.
The group of blockaders say they were enforcing an eviction notice issued by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in January 2020.
Gidimt’en spokesperson Sleydo’, who also goes by the English name Molly Wickham, said the court-ordered injunction has no authority on their land.
“They are trespassing, violating human rights, violating Indigenous rights and, most importantly, they are violating Wet’suwet’en law,” she said in a video shared online.
Following the arrests, the Gidimt’en Checkpoint issued a media release stating the “Coyote Camp,” which was set up on the CGL proposed drilling site, remains in place.
“If TC Energy (CGL parent company) thinks that raiding Wet’suwet’en territory will stop the resistance against this project, they’re dead
wrong,” said Sleydo’.
Another Facebook post said they will never give up the fight and called for “boots on the ground on every piece of infrastructure.”
“Go to your local RCMP detachments, tell them to keep their hands off the Wet’suwet’en,” it said, adding there would be a gathering at the courthouse in Smithers today (Nov. 19).
Meanwhile, the elected Wet’suwet’en First Nation (formerly the Broman Lake Indian Band) council, which signed on to the pipeline project along with other elected band councils, distanced itself from the protesters. A press release stated the protesters did not consult with them before blocking the road and their actions “can’t claim to represent the members of the Gidimt’en or any others in the First Nation.”
In both 2019 and 2020, conflict over the pipeline escalated when RCMP enforced B.C. Supreme Court injunctions issued to Coastal GasLink and arrested project opponents.
Last year, the conflict kicked off nationwide protests that stopped railways and put a spotlight on Indigenous rights and jurisdiction.
Talks between the federal government and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to ease the tensions are ongoing.
-with files from the Canadian Press