The Mackenzie RCMP detachment's efforts to peacefully resolve a conflict between the McLeod Lake Indian Band and a group of protesters this summer was acknowledged during the North District RCMP's annual awards ceremony Wednesday.
They were awarded a certificate of appreciation by North District RCMP Chief Supt. Rod Booth and B.C. RCMP Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens in relation to a 12-day blockade in front of the band council office. While it ended in arrests, there was no violence.
On the first day of the blockade, which lasted from May 24 to June 4, the band council had secured an order from the B.C. Supreme Court to end the blockade but Mackenzie RCMP opted against moving in right away.
They decided to give the sides more time to work things out, the detachment's Staff Sgt. Sydney Lecky said.
"It was an internal dispute and we were on the periphery to try and keep the peace to work their magic with each other," Lecky said.
RCMP did eventually move in and arrest 19 participants but they gave themselves up without a struggle.
"There was no violence at all," Lecky said. "In fact, both sides left thanking us for our work and our approach to the whole thing. That was unusual because usually you get one side or the other that's not happy with the outcome."
Earlier this month, blockade leader Justin Chingee, who had lost to current chief Derek Orr in the band's most recent election, was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, perform 100 hours of community service work and issue a public apology through ads placed in local media.
The blockade was up at the same time as one at the Gitxsan Treaty Society office in Hazelton and RCMP reluctance to enforce a court order to end that blockade drew criticism from a B.C. Supreme Court Justice.
In issuing the penalties against Chingee, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Linda Loo had a similar comment after hearing Chingee may have been misguided by RCMP's limited action in Hazelton, saying she found the Mackenzie RCMP's approach "puzzling."
However, Booth said "building relationships is one of the most important aspects of how we resolve conflicts."