Amnesty condemns RCMP ‘attack’ on Wet’suwet’en territory

Mounties say they were obstructed while executing search warrant

Screen grab from video filmed while RCMP execute a search warrant along a pipeline construction route in northern B.C.

Amnesty International Canada is the latest to criticize the B.C. RCMP for arresting five opponents of a natural gas pipeline project in the northern part of the province Wednesday.

Members of two camps along the construction route of Coastal GasLink pipeline were taken into custody when RCMP said they obstructed officers in the process of executing a search warrant.

A statement from Gidimt’en Checkpoint, whose members oppose the construction through Wet’suwet’en territory, said police arrested mostly Indigenous women, including the daughter of a hereditary chief.

“This harassment and intimidation is exactly the kind of violence designed to drive us from our homelands,” said checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo’ in a release.

Amnesty, a human rights organization, agreed the RCMP had over-stepped.

“RCMP’s March 29 raid on Wet’suwet’en territory is the latest act in a longstanding campaign of violence, intimidation and dispossession against Indigenous land defenders,” it said in a release.

Action or ‘raid’

Some of the police action or “raid” – as Gidimt’en called it – was captured on video by the checkpoint and shared with media outlets via a communications firm.

RCMP said in their own release they were looking for power tools allegedly stolen from a work site Sunday night after a worker was “swarmed” by a group of people wearing masks.

Police allege the group fired flares and gained access to one of the pipeline company’s vehicles when the worker left the area because of “the intimidation.”

TC Energy, the owner of the project, said in its own statement that workers deserve a safe environment without fear of dangerous acts.

Gidimt’en said the police search warrant had no clear relation to the checkpoint and village site.

“This is harassment…,” Chief Na’moks, of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, said in another release. “In the context of the theft of our ancestral land, alleging stolen saws and clothing is outrageous.”

670 km pipeline

Opposition among Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to the 670 km pipeline sparked rallies and rail blockades across Canada in 2020, while the elected council of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and others nearby have agreed to the project.

TC Energy noted the pipeline is now more than 85 per cent complete.

The police operation comes a few weeks after the independent watchdog for the RCMP launched a review of the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), which was formed in 2017 to respond to public protests over resource-based projects in B.C.

Gidimt’en alleged it was C-IRG who made the arrests, while RCMP say it was members of their detachment in Houston, a town about 600 km north of Vancouver.

The review by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission is focused on police enforcement of injunctions obtained by Coastal GasLink Ltd. and two forest companies against protests in B.C.’s Kootenay region and on Vancouver Island.

With files by The Canadian Press and Lee Wilson

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