Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach is calling for an independent review of police action following an incendiary report by The Guardian about the RCMP’s dismantling of the Gidimt’en checkpoint on Jan. 7, 2019.
The call from Bachrach comes after notes from an RCMP strategy session on the raid were allegedly obtained and published by the U.K.-based newspaper.
In a Facebook post Dec. 20, Bachrach reacted to The Guardian’s unconfirmed reporting that the RCMP was arguing for actions such as “lethal overwatch” (a term denoting sniper presence) being required for the deployment.
The Guardian also alleged officers were given approval to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” in their removal of the Gidimt’en checkpoint, which was erected in 2018 by members of the Wet’suwet’en nation and their supporters.
A separate document also allegedly references an officer’s opinion that arrests would be necessary for “sterilizing the site” while another noted while the Wet’suwet’en had firearms for hunting there was no indication they would use them against the RCMP.
The checkpoint is one of multiple sites meant to restrict access to Coastal GasLink (CGL) workers and their proposed 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline.
On Jan. 7, 2019, armed RCMP officers made their way to the checkpoint to enforce a B.C. Supreme Court injunction, took apart the gate and arrested 14 people in the process.
All 14 arrested individuals subsequently had their charges dismissed.
In a statement issued Dec. 21, the RCMP said it had requested the documents from The Guardian, but was denied.
“As such, we cannot verify the validity of the statements made in the article or of the documents themselves,” a spokesperson said. “Similarly, we have not had the opportunity to determine in what context any of the alleged statements may have been made or by whom.”
The statement said several phrases mentioned in the article “are not generally used by the RCMP during operational planning.”
Today, Dwayne McDonald, RCMP assistant commissioner specifically addressed the term “lethal overwatch.”
“Most concerning is the reference to lethal overwatch, which from a RCMP perspective and indeed police forces around the world, relates to an observation position taken by armed police officers, to ensure police and public safety,” he said.
In the Dec. 20 Facebook post, Bachrach said he found the Guardian article hard to read.
“To learn that in its planning the RCMP encouraged violence against people who are our friends and neighbours is heartbreaking and deeply troubling,” he wrote.
“Instructions such as ‘sanitize the area’ and ‘use as much violence as you want’ are not appropriate.”
Bachrach said he is calling on the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) to conduct an independent review of the RCMP’s planning and actions related to the Jan. 7, 2019 incident to determine whether they were consistent with Canadian law enforcement standards.
“I, and many of my constituents, find these reports disturbing. The fact that the word violence was used and seemingly encouraged is frankly troubling,” he told The Interior News.
“An independent review will be able to help Canadians understand whether Canadian law enforcement standards were upheld.”
The request from Bachrach comes more than two months after a request from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en demanding Forests Minister Doug Donaldson issue a cease-and-desist order to CGL’s 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline due to the “ongoing destruction of Wet’suwet’en cultural heritage and archaeological sites, and non-compliance with Wet’suwet’en and BC Provincial law.”