RCMP moved in Thursday morning and began dismantling blockades and arresting protesters who have been defying a court injunction with blockades set up to try to prevent workers from getting in and out of work sites for the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
In defiance of a court injunction, members of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, along with other First Nation supporters, including a number of Haudenosaunee from Eastern Canada, set up three blockades along the Morice West Forest Service Road on November 14. This was after a previous blockade was set up in October, which resulted in arrests.
According to Coastal GasLink, the protesters have cut down trees and used a backhoe stolen from a contractor to dig up the road in order to block access to workers, who have been essentially trapped at work camps, with no way out.
By the afternoon, Coastal GasLink said the blockades had been cleared and were able to bring water and other supplies to workers.
"The Morice Forest Service Road has been cleared by the RCMP and can now be safely utilized to bring water, food and other critical supplies to over 500 workers who have been stranded for almost four days," the company said in a news release.
RCMP said considerable damage had been done to the Lamprey Creek Bridge, with both ends and the footings dug out. Police said an overturned vehicle was also covered in debris and concrete and placed at the east side of the bridge, while a bulldozer was partially buried in a dug out trench at the west side of the bridge. A decommissioned excavator was also blocking the road beyond the bridge, and one vehicle had even been lit on fire.
Police characterized the enforcement of the injunction as a “rescue mission.”
“We have serious concerns that a number of individuals from out of province and out of country have been engaging in illegal activities in the area such as falling trees, stealing or vandalizing heavy machinery and equipment, and causing major destruction to the forestry road, all in an effort to prevent industry and police from moving through,” RCMP Chief Superintendent John Brewer, said in an RCMP news release.
“Our primary focus is on everyone’s safety, particularly the camp workers, who are nearing the end of their essential supplies.
"We were hoping that a solution would be reached without the need for police enforcement, however, it has become very clear to us that our discretionary period has come to an end and the RCMP must now enforce the orders given by the BC Supreme Court on December 31, 2019. We are now mobilizing our resources for a rescue mission.”
RCMP say a total of 14 individuals were arrested Thursday for breaching the injunction, and will appear before the BC Supreme Court Friday. They remain in custody.
RCMP have set up an access control point at the 27.5 kilometre mark of the Morice Forest Service Road, and say there will be police presence at at all times.
Today’s enforcement was dictated by the actions taken by protesters that blocked the Morice River Forest Service Road that jeopardized the safety and wellness of hundreds of people whose provisions were at critical levels, said Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs, Officer in Charge of Criminal Operations – Core Policing, in a release.
We have made significant efforts to facilitate meaningful dialogue between all stakeholders, and specifically with the group opposing this pipeline project, to no avail. It was no longer possible to delay our efforts to rescue the workers. As such, our enforcement operation had to proceed immediately.
The protesters say the court-ordered injunction has no authority on their land.
However, a statement released by the elected Wet'suwet'en council said the protesters didn't consult with them before blocking the road and their actions "can't claim to represent the members of the Gidimt'en or any others in the First Nation."
— with AHN, Canadian Press files