Coastal GasLink workers were briefly allowed on Sunday to inspect a work camp located behind an ongoing blockade by Wetsu'wet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters.
On Jan. 3, Wet'suwet'en hereditary leaders issued an "eviction notice" to Coastal GasLink, ordering the company off its traditional territory. Over the weekend the members of the Unist'ot'en camp, which operates a blockade on the Morice River Bridge 47 km southwest of Houston, B.C., issued a statement saying it would workers to winterize Coast GasLink's Camp 9A, located in the blockaded area.
"Site 9A remains unoccupied and we worked cooperatively with the Unist'ot'en (Dark House) to access the site on Sunday to conduct maintenance to prevent damage whiel it remains unoccupied," a Coastal GasLink spokesperson said in an email. "The maintenance work took several hours and was completed successfully. We appreciated the agreement of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs for access and are committed to continuing our effort to meet and find common ground. Our focus remains on finding a peaceful and mutually agreeable resolution."
In their statement issued on the weekend, the Wetsu'wet'en hereditary chiefs said the decision to allow workers one-time access isn't a sign the chiefs are changing their position.
"This arrangement in no way constitutes consultation with (Coastal GasLink). We remain steadfast in our position that no pipeline will be built on unceded Wet'suwet'en territory," the statement said. "As hereditary chiefs, we will continue to uphold Wet'suwent'en law on these lands and ensure that our eviction order stands."
The RCMP set up a checkpoint at the 27-km mark along Morice West Forest Service Road on Monday.
"Our duty is to preserve the safety of everyone involved in this dispute, and to prevent further contraventions to the BC Supreme Court ordered injunction," an RCMP press release said. "The purpose (of the checkpoint) is to mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway, as well as to allow emergency service access to the area."
The RCMP has launched a criminal code investigation after a patrol found stacks of tires set up with jugs of fuel and kindling along the road, and trees pre-cut ready to fall.
Anyone seeking to pass the checkpoint will be required to provide ID, their destination, estimated time of return, and understanding of the hazards present along the road. Permission to cross the checkpoint has to come from the RCMP's operations commander.
People allowed to access the area include Wetsu'wet'en hereditary and elected chiefs, government officials, accredited journalists, and people bringing food, medicine or other supplies required for the safety or wellbeing of people behind the blockade.
"The RCMP has advised all stakeholders of these procedures at the access control checkpoint," the statement said. "We remain committed to facilitating the ongoing dialogue between Indigenous communities, Coastal GasLink and government, in the hopes that these efforts will result in a safe and peaceful outcome. This has been our focus and will continue to be our focus."
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Stratchan has met with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary and elected chiefs and other stakeholders, the statement said.
"Out of respect to everyone engaged and in the spirit of what they are trying to accomplish, we don't want to publicly discuss the details of those meetings. However, we would like to state that we are pleased with the meetings so far, which has provided the opportunity to outline issues of concern and for the RCMP to explain our position, our understanding and role in this matter."
© Copyright Prince George Citizen
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