The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Canada needs more independent media. And independent media needs you.

Did you know that most news organizations in Canada are owned by just a handful of companies? And that these companies have been shutting down newsrooms and laying off reporters continually over the past few decades?

Fact-based, credible journalism is essential to our democracy. Unlike many other newsrooms across the country, The Tyee’s independent newsroom is stable and growing.

How are we able to do this? The Tyee Builder program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip into our editorial budget so that we can keep doing what we do best: fact-based, in-depth reporting on issues that matter to our readers. No paywall. No junk. Just good journalism.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to be Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
News
  |  
Indigenous
  |  
Rights + Justice

RCMP Has Spent Almost $20 Million Policing Wet’suwet’en Territory

Costs include almost $6 million in the last fiscal year. But local residents say police presence has been reduced.

Amanda Follett Hosgood 16 Aug 2021 | TheTyee.ca

Amanda Follett Hosgood is The Tyee’s northern B.C. reporter. She lives in Wet’suwet’en territory. Find her on Twitter @amandajfollett.

Despite a relatively quiet year on the Morice West Forest Service Road where Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders oppose a natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory, the RCMP still spent almost $6 million policing the area, The Tyee has learned.

That’s in addition to nearly $14 million spent by the RCMP between January 2019 and the end of March 2020.

The spending included the costs of two separate police raids — in January 2019 and February 2020 — on blockades put in place by Wet’suwet’en and their supporters who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The total, obtained through a freedom of information request, doesn’t include RCMP activities in the area since April 1.

Local residents report a diminished presence in recent months.

“We would see RCMP at least two to three times a day patrolling the territory,” said Molly Wickham, who lives in the area and holds the Wet’suwet’en traditional name Sleydo’. “Every once in a while, they’ll send out Houston RCMP. We’ve even seen Burns Lake RCMP out here patrolling, but we haven’t seen CIRG [the RCMP’s community-industry response group] in a significant amount of time, which is probably about two months.”

Wickham is a member of the Gidimt’en Clan, which built a camp on the remote forestry road — including barricades blocking access to construction traffic — in late 2018. The roadblocks were in support of the neighbouring Unist’ot’en house group, which has opposed pipelines through the territory for more than a decade.

On Jan. 7, 2019, Wickham was among 14 people arrested during a high-profile police raid. Following the arrests, RCMP set up the Community-Industry Safety Office, a remote detachment located on the Morice resource road, to maintain an ongoing presence.

During those first three months of 2019, the RCMP spent more than $3.6 million on Coastal GasLink-related policing, according to a previous freedom of information request submitted by The Tyee. That tally includes the Jan. 7 enforcement, establishment of the CISO detachment and nearly three months of patrols.

But tensions — and policing — increased again in early 2020, when Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership blocked access to the Morice road after the BC Supreme Court issued an injunction allowing the pipeline company permanent access to the route.

RCMP arrested 28 people over five days in early February last year, including arrests at Gidimt’en camp and the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre. In the fiscal year that included the raids, ending March 31, 2020, the force spent an additional $9.5 million.

In total, the RCMP spent almost $19 million policing the area between Jan. 1, 2019, and March 31, 2021.

A breakdown of the expenses indicates that the force spent more than $2.6 million last year on personnel in the remote area south of Houston, B.C. The second largest line item, at a little over $1.5 million, was simply described as “rentals,” while “transportation and communications” cost the force $1 million.

Other expenses included “acquisition of machinery and equipment” ($54,651), “professional and special services” ($1,366), “utilities, materials and supplies” ($30,430) and “information” ($249), in addition to $86 for “other subsidies and payments.” In an email, a spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said the costs fall under the current Provincial Police Service Agreement, which divides costs for RCMP services 70-30 between the provincial and federal governments.

As part of an agreement between federal, provincial and Wet’suwet’en governments in March 2020, the Community-Industry Safety Office was shuttered, and patrols were based to nearby Houston. RCMP senior media relations officer Janelle Shoihet said in an email to The Tyee that hasn’t changed, with patrols continuing from the northern community 300 kilometres west of Prince George.

“We continue to have a presence along the Morice FSR and are conducting routine patrols,” Shoihet said. “There have been no notable incidents or concerns over the course of the last year. The officers supporting these patrols are working from the Houston RCMP detachment and the CISO remains closed.”

Shoihet said she couldn’t comment on whether patrols had decreased in the area.

But Wickham said the reduction is noticeable.

“It’s definitely a relief to not constantly be at risk of being arrested or harassed or ticketed,” she said, adding that RCMP would regularly pull over, ticket and surveille Wet’suwet’en and their supporters.

“We’ve had really bad experiences with CGL security, but we also know that we’re not at risk of going to jail when the CGL security show up.”

Two weeks ago, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office issued a warning to the pipeline company after Wickham was repeatedly turned back while attempting to monitor pipeline construction on her house group’s traditional territory.

Wickham suspects the shift in policing is a combination of little activity in the area and RCMP resources being diverted to old-growth logging protests on Vancouver Island. RCMP launched a raid on the blockaders’ headquarters Monday, as protesters marked the protests’ one-year anniversary this week.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free.

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.

Do:

  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others
  • Personally attack authors or contributors
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

What Issue Is Most Important to You This Election?

Take this week's poll