Indigenous demonstrators near the town of Houston, B.C. say they are bracing for removal by the RCMP.
Members of the Wet’suwet’en nation say they have set up checkpoints on their traditional territory to block access for the TransCanada pipeline company.
They say that they have observed many RCMP members arriving in the area and were told in a meeting with the RCMP’s Aboriginal Police Liaison that they would be removed by “specially trained tactical forces”
The RCMP said in a statement that they are following the B.C. Supreme Court who issued an interim injunction against protesters who interfere with the Coastal GasLink project.
“For the land in question, where the Unist’ot’en camp is currently located near Houston, BC, it is our understanding that there has been no declaration of Aboriginal title in the Courts of Canada,” said the RCMP”s “E” Division Communication Services in a release.
“In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada issued an important decision, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, that considered Aboriginal title to Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en traditional territories. The Supreme Court of Canada decided that a new trial was required to determine whether Aboriginal title had been established for these lands, and to hear from other Indigenous nations which have a stake in the territory claimed. The new trial has never been held, meaning that Aboriginal title to this land, and which Indigenous nation holds it, has not been determined”
The Nation says that, on December 14, 2018, TransCanada’s Coastal Gas Link pipeline was granted an injunction to gain access to Wet’suwet’en traditional territory and to remove the checkpoint at the Unist’ot’en Camp that has been blocking the company’s access to the site.
After the injunction was granted, the Gidumt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation set up an additional checkpoint on their traditional territory.
The Wet’suwet’en nation says that the action is against Truth and Reconciliation and The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada signed onto at the U.N., but has not ratified.
The group is citing Article 10 of the Declaration which indicates that Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories.
The RCMP say they are working within their jurisdiction and are concerned with safety and preservation of the right to peaceful, lawful and safe protest, within the terms set by the Supreme Court in the injunction.
“We would like to emphasize that the RCMP respects the Wet’suwet’en culture, the connection to the land and traditions being taught and passed on at the camp, and the importance of the camp to healing,” said the RCMP.
“We also recognize the importance of open and direct dialogue between all parties involved in this dispute. Through the Division Liaison Team and the Indigenous Policing Section, the RCMP have maintained a dialogue with the residents of the Unist’ot’en camp over the last several months… Should enforcement take place, the RCMP will be prepared to ensure the safety of everyone involved,” added the release.
The project is a proposed pipeline that will deliver natural gas across northern B.C.
Coastal GasLink says after it delivers the natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to a facility near Kitimat, LNG Canada will prepare it for export to global markets by converting the gas to a liquefied state.
Coastal GasLink says it will not be producing or exporting natural gas or LNG and that its role is to ensure the safe transportation of the natural gas.