SMITHERS, B.C. — A hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en nation says a woman has been arrested aboard a bus where she was living in northern British Columbia as police enforce an injunction related to opposition against a natural gas pipeline.
Hereditary Chief Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, says the woman was arrested in an exclusion zone along with another person, and the pair would likely be taken to a detachment in Houston.
Six people were arrested Thursday and released 14 hours later, and Na’moks says those taken into custody Friday may go through the same experience.
He says people who have been arrested were on their own territory where they live, not blocking any construction, which hasn’t progressed in the cold weather since December.
Enforcement began earlier this week after the provincial government and hereditary chiefs of the First Nation failed to reach an agreement in talks intended to de-escalate the dispute.
RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We were living there before the exclusion zone,” Na’moks says, adding police have asked residents of a cabin to leave. “You can’t abandon your home.”
“If somebody had an RCMP checkpoint at the edge of your driveway and you weren’t allowed to come and go from your home as you wish that would be stressful for anybody,” he says.
“There is no reason to arrest anybody if they’re not in the way, being an obstacle or an impediment.”
Jen Wickham, a spokeswoman for the Gidimt’en, one of five clans of the Wet’suwet’en, says she had joined others near a road awaiting the arrival of the pair who’d been arrested, about 40 kilometres away.
She says others had blocked an exit route police would have to pass with the two people who were arrested.
Mounties have said they’re obligated to enforce the court order and want to avoid any violence but were prepared for any confrontation as they did their jobs.
Coastal GasLink president David Pfeiffer has said the company has support from all 20 elected Indigenous governments along the pipeline path and would move forward with its construction schedule.
Amnesty International says in a statement it was deeply concerned about reports that RCMP officers threatened to arrest journalists for taking photographs and document police activity in the territory.
“These journalists had every right to be there, documenting the events in Wet’suwet’en territory without threat of arrest. In fact, at times of heightened tensions, concerns about human rights violations and the use of police force, the role of the media is essential,” says Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2020.
The Canadian Press