BRITISH COLUMBIA (NEWS 1130) – The leader of a B.C. First Nations group is calling for calm as tensions rise in the ongoing natural gas pipeline debate in the northern part of the province.
Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit says there will always be differences of opinion, even within First Nations communities.
“There will always be differences of views and opinions and how, within a nation, these are managed. The last thing that anybody wants to do is to see that potential division may lead to conflict within the community which I don’t expect that, I think cooler heads are prevailing,” he adds.
The First Nation’s council voted in favour of the pipeline, while the hereditary leaders and some members say the project and injunction violate indigenous sovereignty and pose a risk to the environment.
But John says public safety is number one as RCMP enforce a civil injunction against the protesters blocking access to the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.
“Sometimes tempers flare in situations like this and so public safety is number one duty and responsibility of the RCMP is to keep the peace. Here is a civil dispute between a company and Indigenous land-right holders,” he adds.
WATCH: Pipeline protests across Canada
This is after RCMP arrested more than a dozen people on Monday while enforcing the injunction. Video online showed multiple police and Tactical and Emergency Response members at the blockade just west of Smithers.
As of Tuesday morning, a GoFundMe page to raise funds to get supplies to the demonstrators at the checkpoint, as well as help pay for any legal fees, has raised over $126,000.
John is encouraging communities to continue the fight in the courts.
“At some point, governments need to pay attention and listen to what our communities are saying and trying to find an appropriate resolution.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of people wound their way through the streets of Vancouver in support of anti-pipeline protesters on Tuesday. It was just one of many protests taking place across the country on an international day of protest.
-With files from Denise Wong