AFN chief crit­i­cal of RCMP’s in­ter­ven­tion into pipe­line protest

Simcoe Reformer - Times-Reformer - - ONTARIO NEWS -

HOUS­TON, B.C. — The na­tional chief of the As­sem­bly of First Na­tions says the use of force against peo­ple peace­fully protest­ing the con­struc­tion of a pipe­line in north­ern Bri­tish Co­lum­bia is a vi­o­la­tion of their hu­man and abo­rig­i­nal rights.

Four­teen peo­ple have been taken into cus­tody at a block­ade southwest of Hous­ton, B.C., where some mem­bers of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Na­tion had set up a camp to con­trol ac­cess to a pipe­line project across their ter­ri­tory.

“Build­ing con­sen­sus un­der duress will make the res­o­lu­tion of the sit­u­a­tion in north­ern Bri­tish Co­lum­bia very dif­fi­cult,” Perry Bel­le­garde said in a state­ment on Tues­day. “Real con­sen­sus will be built when the par­ties, with very dif­fer­ent views, come to­gether in mean­ing­ful and pro­duc­tive di­a­logue. And I am con­fi­dent that they can do this.”

An RCMP state­ment says the ar­rests on Mon­day came when of­fi­cers de­ter­mined a res­o­lu­tion was un­likely after they spoke with camp mem­bers about com­ply­ing with a court or­der and re­mov­ing the block­ade.

Tran­sCanada sub­sidiary Coastal GasLink ob­tained an in­junc­tion from the Supreme Court of Bri­tish Co­lum­bia or­der­ing the re­moval of ob­struc­tions in area as pre­lim­i­nary work gets un­der­way on a pipe­line car­ry­ing nat­u­ral gas from the Daw­son Creek area to Kiti­mat.

Protests took place across the coun­try Tues­day in sup­port of the Gidimt’en clan mem­bers who are op­posed to the pipe­line.

Bel­le­garde said the Cana­dian and B.C. gov­ern­ments have promised to im­ple­ment UN Dec­la­ra­tion on the Rights of Indige­nous Peo­ples but in north­ern B.C. they are im­pos­ing their laws over those of the Wet’suwet’en.

“If this was really about the ‘rule of law’ then gov­ern­ments would be hon­our­ing the rights and ti­tle of First Na­tions in their tra­di­tional ter­ri­to­ries, which are rec­og­nized by Canada’s own courts,” he added. “The AFN sup­ports the gov­er­nance and de­ci­sion-mak­ing process of the Wet’suwet’en lead­ers. Canada and B.C. should do the same. There is no rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in the ac­tions that un­folded yes­ter­day.”

Gidimt’en mem­ber Jen Wick­ham said hered­i­tary chiefs had gath­ered near the camp Tues­day and were ex­pect­ing fur­ther RCMP ac­tion later that day.

Wick­ham was in Prince Ge­orge where she said 13 peo­ple ar­rested for vi­o­lat­ing the court or­der, in­clud­ing her sis­ter Molly Wick­ham, were sched­uled to ap­pear in court.

The Gidimt’en set up a gate in De­cem­ber in sup­port of an an­tip­ipeline camp that mem­bers of the Unist’ot’en, an­other Wet’suwet’en clan, have held for years.

Wick­ham, who has fielded calls from In­dia and the United King­dom about the pipe­line re­sis­tance, said it’s been “sur­real” to see the in­ter­na­tional re­sponse.

She said she be­lieves the is­sue is gain­ing at­ten­tion now be­cause the Gidimt’en have dis­pelled the myth that it’s only in­di­vid­u­als from one clan op­pos­ing the project.

“I think now that the Gidimt’en have stepped up and said, ’No, this is a na­tion-based is­sue, this is about sovereignty,’ it’s really sink­ing in,” she said.

NDP mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Nathan Cullen, who rep­re­sents the area, said the protest he wit­nessed on Mon­day was “de­ter­mined” but “peace­ful. He es­ti­mated about 200 po­lice of­fi­cers were used to en­force the court in­junc­tion.

Cpl. Madonna Saun­der­son would not say how many RCMP of­fi­cers were in­volved in the op­er­a­tion.

“We have a con­tin­gency of po­lice of­fi­cers in­volved in this en­force­ment ac­tion,” she said. “We have what is needed, what we feel we need.”

The Moun­ties placed ex­clu­sion ar­eas and road clo­sures near the Morice River Bridge where the block­ade was lo­cated that pre­vented Coastal GasLink from get­ting ac­cess to its pipe­line right of way.

The com­pany says it has signed agree­ments with all First Na­tions alongth­er­oute­forLNGCanada’s$40 bil­lion liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas project in Kiti­mat, but demon­stra­tors ar­gue Wet’suwet’en house chiefs, who are hered­i­tary rather than elected, have not given con­sent.

LNG Canada an­nounced in Oc­to­ber that it was mov­ing ahead with its plans for the Kiti­mat ex­port fa­cil­ity. Con­struc­tion on the 670-km nat­u­ral gas pipe­line — slated to cost $6.2 bil­lion — is sched­uled to be­gin this month.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Pro­test­ers voice their op­po­si­tion against pipe­lines dur­ing a rally on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa on Tues­day.

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