At least 11 people were arrested Saturday for allegedly barricading themselves in a warming centre along the only access road to a construction site for the contentious Coastal GasLink pipeline, which runs across Wet’suwet’en territory.
RCMP continued to enforce a court-ordered injunction against Wet’suwet’en members and their supporters protesting the pipeline in northern B.C. Saturday, as tensions remain high over the energy project.
Since Thursday, after talks broke down between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the province, police have been working their way along the Morice West Forest Service Road, just south of Houston. The route is the only access road leading to the project’s construction site.
Officers dismantled two of three camps blocking access along the road on Friday.
According to organizers of the Unist’ot’en healing village – RCMP reached the third and final camp on Saturday morning. A 40-vehicle convoy of police was seen heading up the forestry road shortly after 9 a.m., Wet’suewe’ten members said on social media. A helicopter landed near the bridge in front of the camp shortly after 11 a.m., before leaving around 12:30 p.m.
— Unist'ot'en Camp (@UnistotenCamp) February 8, 2020
It is unclear how many Wet’suwet’en land defenders are currently at that camp.
Six people were arrested Thursday, followed by another four on Friday. Further arrests are expected through the weekend.
The pipeline, part of the massive $40 billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export terminal project, runs from Dawson Creek to Kitimat on the northwest coast. The forestry road is part of an ongoing exclusion zone, which means that only police officers, hereditary chiefs or elected officials and media have been allowed through the checkpoint, which was first implemented at the 27-kilometre mark.
But RCMP said in a late-night update that the exclusion zone and checkpoint would be pushed back to the four-kilometre mark near the entrance of the forestry road. This came after the original access point was blockaded twice with one instance interfering with a police vehicle transporting arrested people.
“Several vehicles driven by RCMP personnel have been made inoperative after travelling past the 27-kilometre mark,” Mounties said.
“Later investigation has revealed that metal spikes were placed on the Forest Service Road, and these items were placed solely to cause damage to travelling vehicles.”
According to clan members, a number of people have refused to leave the 27-kilometre mark despite being told by police to vacate the area by 11 a.m. Saturday.
As tensions remain high along the rural northern B.C. road, the dispute has sparked a number of demonstrations across the country in solidarity with the First Nation. This includes a protest in southeastern Ontario which has forced the shutdown of passenger rail services since Friday morning.
In B.C., a number of demonstrators have been protesting RCMP actions by occupying the Legislature in Victoria for more than 24 hours. Another protest has shut down access to the Port of Vancouver.
A large group of land defenders in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs is still assembled on the steps of the B.C. Legislature today. pic.twitter.com/nbuepbWOIc
— Shalu Mehta (@ShaluMehta32) February 8, 2020
#VanTraffic: if you are travelling westbound on Highway 1 trying to get into Vancouver, we recommend you take the Hastings or 1st Avenue exits. Protests near the port entrances are causing traffic disruptions.
— Vancouver Police (@VancouverPD) February 8, 2020