The RCMP in British Columbia has launched a criminal investigation into what it calls “a hazardous blockade” on the Morice West Forest Service Road (FSR) near Houston.
According to a release by Cpl. Madonna Saunderson, officers patrolling the area reported partially felled trees, along with the large ones already blocking the road and a stack of tires covered with tarps and smaller trees.
The Mounties also released pictures of jugs of gasoline and sticks of kindling at the base of the construction.
“This creates a hazard where these [half-cut] trees can fall unexpectedly due to wind. Three stacks of tires were also noticed, each covered by tarps and trees, and contained several jugs of accelerants – gasoline, diesel, oil, kindling and bags full of fuel soaked rags,” the release stated.
Hereditary Chief Na’moks (John Ridsdale) previously addressed the felled trees.
“Those trees put across the road were for our safety. We must look at the history of the RCMP one year ago and what they did to our people and the guests in our territory,” he said.
APTN News asked him about the tire barricade, including the accelerants, but did not hear back.
The Morice West FSR is a point of contention between five hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline company.
The company has agreements with 20 elected First Nations governments along the entire pipeline route, necessary permits and authorizations, and an interlocutory injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court that allow it to proceed with construction.
The Wet’suwet’en Nation consists of five federally recognized, elected First Nation governments – all of which have an agreement with CGL.
But hereditary chiefs of the five Wet’suwet’en clans oppose the 670-kilometre project, which would carry fracked natural gas across northern B.C. to a facility near Kitimat on the coast.
They assert Aboriginal title to unceded territories – Wet’suwet’en haven’t signed a treaty – and claim they’re asserting jurisdiction of Wet’suwet’en customary law.
The chiefs issued an “eviction notice” to the pipeline company, but CGL says it expects to resume construction this week.
B.C. Supreme Court ordered CGL to post the new injunction order to its website on Tuesday. The notice gave the pipeline company’s opponents 72-hours to clear the road of obstructions like the one above.
If they remain in place the RCMP can dismantle them and arrest anyone police believe is knowingly contravening the injunction order.
“These concerning items have been brought to the attention of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. They have also been advised that the RCMP has entered into a criminal investigation under Section 247 of the Criminal Code for Traps Likely to Cause Bodily Harm,” the RCMP said about the new blockade.
The federal police force says it respects the right to protest within the parameters of the injunction but “will take steps to ensure that those who unlawfully interfere with or threaten the safety of any person or property may be held accountable in accordance with the laws of Canada.”
Today, CGL responded to the RCMP investigation by issuing a statement that supports the right to protest “peacefully and lawfully.”
“Our primary concern is the safety of all users of this public forestry road, including those who wish to protest our activities. Unlawful actions that put people at risk for serious harm are dangerous, reckless and unacceptable, and do not reflect peaceful protest,” President David Pfeiffer said.
He called on Na’moks to meet with the company to negotiate a peaceful outcome.
RCMP came under international scrutiny after The Guardian reported that officers were prepared to use lethal force against Wet’suwet’en and their supporters during the enforcement of an interim injunction a year ago.
During that raid, RCMP arrested 14 people that have since been released.
Though a repeat of last year’s conflict appears to be a possibility, the RCMP maintains it wants to avoid confrontation.
“We want to emphasize that we are impartial in this dispute and our priority is to facilitate a dialogue between the various stakeholders involved. We remain hopeful that these efforts will result in a resolution.”