Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs from left, Rob Alfred, John Ridsdale, centre and Antoinette Austin, who oppose the Costal Gaslink pipeline take part in a rally in Smithers B.C., on Friday January 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

RCMP pipeline checkpoint ‘arbitrary and discriminatory,’ say B.C. complainants

Wet’suwet’en say RCMP unlawfully restricting access on traditional territory in Coastal GasLink fight

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs and their supporters want a public investigation into the way the RCMP are controlling access along a rural road in northern British Columbia.

The RCMP have said they set up a checkpoint along the Morice Forest Service Road south of Houston in order to prevent a dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline from escalating.

But the chiefs along with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs allege that the Mounties are unlawfully restricting access on Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.

They have submitted a complaint to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, asking the chairperson to initiate a policy complaint and public interest investigation.

The RCMP could not immediately be reached for comment.

Harsha Walia, executive director of the civil liberties association, says the application of the RCMP’s enforcement at the checkpoint has been “inconsistent, arbitrary and discriminatory.”

Walia says the coalition has submitted eight first-hand accounts from people turned away as part of the complaint.

Irina Ceric, a non-practising lawyer who tried to visit supporters at a camp beyond the checkpoint, said she was turned away one day because she didn’t have a two-way radio and tire chains but she was allowed through the next day with no questions from a different officer about her equipment.

The B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an injunction on Dec. 31.

READ MORE: B.C. councillor runs afoul of Coastal GasLink protester

The RCMP have said there is an active criminal investigation underway into traps likely to cause bodily harm after patrol officers found felled trees along the road, and piles of tires with jugs of accelerant and fuel-soaked rags nearby.

“There are no reasonable and probable grounds for RCMP to randomly stop vehicles from passing through and requiring identification of all drivers and passengers,” Walia told a news conference Thursday.

She said the Mounties’ actions are “significant, arbitrary and disproportionate to the stated goal of public safety.”

The Canadian Press

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