Mounties set up checkpoint on road to LNG pipeline project

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The president of a company building a natural gas pipeline across northern British Columbia is renewing a request to meet with the hereditary clan chiefs of a First Nation who say the project has no authority without their consent.

The statements suggest a continued impasse between the chiefs and the company behind a 670-kilometre pipeline from Chetwynd in northeastern B.C.to LNG Canada's export terminal in Kitimat.

While Coastal GasLink has signed deals with the elected representatives of First Nations along the pipeline route, a group led by hereditary leaders of the Wet-suwet'en Nation is seeking to block construction of the pipeline within their traditional territories.

A spokeswoman for the Unist'ot'en Healing Center says the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs have given a natural gas company one-time access to a construction site so it can be winterized. Instead, they had to wait until a hereditary chief could escort her in to deliver the supplies, while Merriman waited for an hour on the side of the road, idling his vehicle's engine to stay warm in the frigid temperatures.

The B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink the injunction December 31 and the order authorizes RCMP to arrest and remove anyone they have reasonable or probable grounds to believe is knowingly contravening the order. These are areas that arise when the police enforce a civil law order.

As a result, police have now set up a "check point" along the Morice West Forest Service Road 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 to access the area".

Those who enter the area on the road are stopped by the police and receive a copy of the court order, as well as information about hazards and road conditions.

"It was emphasized that the primary concerns for the RCMP are public and officer safety", it says in a statement released on Monday. It said it's not enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to allow time for dialogue between the hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink.


Permission to cross the checkpoint has to come from the RCMP's operations commander.

However, the RCMP states that the checkpoint is not an exclusion zone.

Horgan said indigenous peoples in B.C. have used the courts to successfully assert their rights and title, but in this case the courts have confirmed that the project can go ahead and continue.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Stratchan has met with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary and elected chiefs and other stakeholders, the statement said.

At the end of previous year, the Horgan government adopted legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It mandates the government to bring provincial laws and policies into harmony with the declaration's aims of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

"The problem we are faced with is that the Horgan government has invested billions of dollars of taxpayer's money to subsidize the CGL project. There is a similar situation in every First Nation in this province, in this country, to manage limited resources to support our people", said Smith.

These comments are contrary to his March 16th, 2019 address at a balhats (potlatch) hosted in Witset, where Wet'suwet'en people collectively witnessed Horgan's commitment to "genuinely work together with hope and optimism for a better future not just for ourselves but for the generation after us and the generation after that".

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 15, 2020. "Free, prior, and informed consent is not an enhanced consultation process, and states can not ignore the decisions made by Indigenous people through their own systems of governance and decision making that they have freely chosen for themselves".

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