Members of the Unist’ot’en anti-pipeline activist group have consolidated their members into one location fearing a police raid is imminent.
The Unist’ot’en house group, which is part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, runs a camp blocking pipeline proponents from accessing their traditional territory south of Houston.
Two alternate routes for TransCanada’s proposed Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline would cross Unist’ot’en territory on their way from north-east B.C. to a processing facility in Kitimat.
In conjunction with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, the camp yesterday issued a press release claiming members of its camp were preparing for a “large-scale RCMP mass arrest operation”.
Camp spokesperson Freda Huson told The Interior News today that a police source had leaked information about a possible operation.
“Somebody inside leaked out that they are planning to take down the camp,” she said.
Huson said a perceived increase in the police presence in Smithers and Houston was another reason members of the clan suspected the RCMP was planning a raid.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association also wrote to the RCMP yesterday to warn against raiding the camp based on information from camp members.
Camp supporters issued a further letter with more than fifty signatories to police and the federal and provincial governments.
She said a lawyer representing the Unist’ot’en group had been asked to contact the RCMP and request a meeting to discuss any planned injunctions or arrests.
Last night, Huson closed one of two Unist’ot’en blockades because she wanted all of the camp’s supporters in one location.
She said this was so there were more witnesses and more cameras in case police came to the camp.
“We weigh all those things out and I decided that it’s best if we’re all here together and there’s more than one camera so they can’t take the camera away because the camera is our safety here, that’s what we use,” she said.
“We have footage to prove that we’ve been peaceful and we have footage to prove that we’ve been nothing but respectful to even the pipeline crews.”
Closing the checkpoint allowed a TransCanada crew working on the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project to access Unist’ot’en land today.
Yesterday the company reported Unist’ot’en members to the RCMP after a convoy of its Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project workers were refused access to Wet’suwet’en land at the Chisholm Road checkpoint.
RCMP media spokesperson Corporal Janelle Shoihet addressed rumours of mass arrests in a statement issued last night.
“We understand that there has been some discussions on social media that don’t accurately reflect the RCMP’s action or the situation,” she said.
“To date there has been no police action.
“It is our understanding that discussions between industry and the Wet’suwet’en are still possible.”
She said the RCMP remained impartial in the ongoing dispute between the clan and the pipeline proponents.
Coastal GasLink project planning and execution director Greg Cano said his company had not applied for any court injunctions in an attempt to access the territory.
He said TransCanada was trying establish a dialogue with the group.
“Being a good neighbour means sitting down with people, even when they don’t agree with us or have different perspectives,” he said.
“This helps us address their questions, benefit from their local knowledge and take their input into consideration during the planning stages of a project like this.
“This approach has already resulted in us investigating an alternate route and considering other realignment along the pipeline route, and we appreciate the time that so many people have taken to provide us with this valuable input.”