The RCMP are encouraging protesters to leave the area of the Morice West Forest Service Road to avoid being arrested as police prepare to enforce a Dec. 31, 2019 injunction granting coastal GasLink access to their worksite near Houston.
At a press conference this afternoon, Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs, Criminal Operations Officer in charge of Core Policing for the BC RCMP, said arrests would be made if opponents of the pipeline do not vacate the area.
“As enforcement of the injunction nears, we have assembled a team,” he said. “We encourage all of the protesters to abide by the injunction and leave the area and they will not be arrested. If there are arrests to be made, there are peaceful options that will require a minimal use of force.”
Stubbs outlined three levels of arrests that will be used for people who do not leave the area, the first being voluntary, peaceful arrest with no handcuffs. For those who refuse to move, he said they would be carried off with minimal force.
“If the above scenarios do not occur, our members will respond to the behaviours that are presented before them,” he said. “They are instructed to use at least the least amount of force that is reasonable to safely arrest a protester.”
Stubbs also addressed last year’s enforcement of a temporary injunction in which 14 people were arrested saying the RCMP learned much from the event and a subsequent review.
For example, he said all of the members deployed to the area received cultural awareness training last weekend.
He noted the review indicated members did not punch or kick any protesters nor use weapons of any kind.
He said RCMP will be recording the event with body-worn cameras, hand-held cameras and from the air.
Finally he commended all the parties for their efforts in coming to a mutually agreeable solution, but that orders from the Supreme court are not optional for any of the parties or police and that they are not at liberty to refuse to enforce them, nor delay enforcement indefinitely.
He did not say when the enforcement action would begin.
“In closing, again, I want to encourage continued dialogue with the RCMP, so all the people who are breaching the injunction can be arrested safely with no use of force necessary.”
No reaction to the police press conference has come yet from the Wet’suwet’en, but yesterday a post on the Unist’ot’en Camp Facebook page indicated they remain defiant.
“We’re not leaving,” it stated. “As Canada prepares to violently invade our lands, we have no fear. We are peacefully living on our lands and upholding our laws, as we always have.”