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RCMP promises 'peaceful enforcement' as standoff brews on Wet'suet'en territory

Last Updated Feb 5, 2020 at 5:01 pm PST

FILE - Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs from left, Rob Alfred, John Ridsdale, centre and Antoinette Austin, who oppose the Costal GasLink pipeline take part in a rally in Smithers B.C., on Friday January 10, 2020. The Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs and their supporters want a public investigation into the way the RCMP are controlling access along a rural road in northern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

RCMP say enforcing the injunction is not their decision, though it will be as peaceful as possible

It is not clear when the injunction will be enforced or how many officers will be used

The BCCLA asserts the checkpoint has been unlawfully restricting access

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Indigenous opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline through northern B.C. is headed for another conflict as RCMP gather near Wet’suet’en territory, preparing to enforce a court injunction as peacefully as possible.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan says Mounties have been meeting with hereditary and elected chiefs who oppose the pipeline on their territory.

“Our most important part to play is to ensure the peace and safety of all those that are part of the enforcement of the injunction,” she says, though she adds it is not up to the RCMP whether or not to enforce an injunction.

RELATED: Indigenous leaders, province fear violence as talks disintegrate over LNG pipeline

It is unclear when the enforcement will begin or with how many officers, but they will be filming developments

Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs says officers have been instructed to use the least amount of force possible, similar to protests on Burnaby Mountain.

Despite the criticism of last year’s raid on Wet’suet’en territory, he defends their actions, saying no one was hurt.

“RCMP members did not punch or kick any of the protesters. RCMP members did not deploy any intermediate weapons, that would include pepper spray, tasers, [and] batons.”

Stub describes the RCMP checkpoint as part of the injunction enforcement and says “there is ongoing breaching of that injunction.”

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has listed a number of charter sections it believes have been violated at the checkpoint, including those covering freedom of association and freedom of the press, as well as section 35, which protects Indigenous rights. The BCCLA asserts officers at the checkpoints have been unlawfully restricting access.

RELATED: ‘Wiggus’ table puts respect at centre of de-escalation talks over pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory

Meanwhile, the province is resigned that what happens next is out of government hands.

“We do not have influence on how the RCMP affect a court injunction,” says Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser. “The idea of a peaceful resolution is in everyone’s interest and that was discussed a lot in the last several days.”

Fraser says he is hoping common ground found over the two days of talks with province and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs will prevail – specifically a desire for safety. Former MP Nathan Cullen, who was brought in to assist with the talks, remains as an intermediary between the Wet’suwet’en and the RCMP. Though they didn’t end the standoff, Fraser says, the parties are in a better place than they were before this week.

The B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an injunction on Dec. 31.

With files from Ash Kelly and the Canadian Press