RCMP Set To Remove Indigenous Anti-Pipeline Blockade Near Houston, British Columbia

RCMP Set To Remove Indigenous Anti-Pipeline Blockade Near Houston, British Columbia

Protesters delayed a speech by the prime minister in Ottawa and blocked traffic in Toronto and Vancouver on Tuesday, after RCMP moved in on an Indigenous blockade to enforce an injunction that would allow a pipeline to proceed in northern British Columbia.

Members of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, which is made up of five clans that have 13 houses, have long protested construction of pipelines through the nation's 22,000 square kilometres of claimed traditional territory.

An RCMP statement says the arrests came after officers realized a resolution was unlikely, even though they had spoken with camp members about removing the blockade and set up a meeting between hereditary chiefs and the pipeline company.

Ahead of the demonstrations in Canada and the United States, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Monday arrived at a checkpoint erected by the Indigenous land defenders created to prevent TransCanada from constructing its Coastal GasLink pipeline through what the protesters have described as "some of the most lovely and pristine territory in the world".

Coastal GasLink says it has signed agreements with all First Nations along the route but demonstrators say Wet'suwet'en house chiefs, who are hereditary rather than elected, have not given consent. They say such projects will jeopardize the area's natural resources and restrict access to their territory.

As Canadian police forces try to enforce a court injunction backing the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Wet'suwet'en territory, a First Nations group has vowed to not back down from protecting what they see as unceded land and their supporters have announced dozens of solidarity actions scheduled for Tuesday in cities across North America.

They are also prohibited from threatening, intimidating or getting within 10 metres of anyone actively working on the project.

A sign for a blockade check point by the Gidimt'en clan of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation is shown in this undated handout photo posted on the Wet'suwet'en Access Point on Gidumt'en Territory Facebook page.

RCMP move in to make arrests, enforcing an injunction order on Morice West Forest Service Road on January 7, 2019.

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Mounties say the arrests took place at the Gitdumt'en checkpoint and that 14 people were taken into custody.

During the arrests, officers saw a number of fires being lit, as well as large, felled trees, along the road.

RCMP say the zone remains in place and will be consistently re-assessed.

In response to claims the RCMP is simply enforcing a court-ordered injunction, Huson also points to moments in history. Police had arrived in the area over the weekend, gathering in Houston and Smithers, the two municipalities closest to the checkpoints.

After much anticipation this morning (Monday), several RCMP officers have met with campers near Houston. Wickham was one of the nine people arrested.

TransCanada has said it is not asking for the camp at the bridge to be dismantled, only for access to its pipeline right of way.

The statement also said there are "erroneous reports that the RCMP jammed communications in the area, preventing the media and public from providing information about the unfolding situation".

The RCMP statement says a temporary exclusion zone has been set up in the area where the police do not allow access to anyone who is not part of the enforcement team. RCMP on Monday issued a news release for the area, saying, "B.C. RCMP is impartial and we respect the rights of individuals to peaceful, lawful and safe assembly".

Edmonton's event is part of an worldwide effort, with 54 other rallies are planned for Tuesday.

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