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.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
Get our free newsletter
Sign Up
News
  |  
Indigenous
  |  
Energy
  |  
Rights + Justice

RCMP Arrest 14, Clear Blockade of Pipeline Work Camps

UBCIC denounces ‘military-style raid’ on protests on Wet’suwet’en territory as supplies flow into Coastal GasLink camps.

Amanda Follett Hosgood 19 Nov 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.

Fourteen people are in custody awaiting a bail hearing and supplies are flowing into Coastal GasLink work camps after an RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory Thursday.

About 50 police officers arrived at the Morice West Forest Service Road south of Houston, B.C., to clear the resource road after Wet’suwet’en members opposing the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline blocked access to two work camps.

About 500 workers at camps 9A Lodge and P2 Lodge had been cut off from services and supplies since Sunday, when Wet’suwet’en members and supporters used Coastal GasLink machinery to dig trenches through the road at several locations.

Remnants of fallen trees and twisted culverts could also been seen alongside the remote resource road, and a crumpled vehicle was removed from the Lamprey Creek bridge at Gidimt’en Camp.

By noon, several RCMP vehicles were seen leaving Gidimt’en Camp, 44 kilometres down the Morice road, with people in custody as heavy machinery worked to repair a bridge over nearby Lamprey Creek.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks said he and other Chiefs were in the midst of planning a meeting with provincial and federal governments just as dozens of RCMP arrived in Smithers earlier this week.

“Meanwhile, there’s an airplane full of RCMP landing,” he said Thursday evening. While other Hereditary Chiefs are considering whether to proceed with a meeting, Na’Moks said he won’t attend following the arrests.

“It’s really reconciliation at the end of a gun.”

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs moved to enforce an eviction notice issued to Coastal GasLink two years ago on Sunday morning, according to Gidimt’en Clan spokesperson Jennifer Wickham.

Wickham said at 5 a.m. calls announcing a road closure began going out over the radio every hour, and messages were relayed through Miles Richardson, a former president of the Haida Nation hired in September to facilitate communication between the Wet’suwet’en, Coastal GasLink and the provincial government.

When no one appeared to be leaving by 3 p.m., the road was decommissioned, she said.

“The government and RCMP are trying to spin it like we’re keeping them hostage. There was no such thing,” Na’Moks said. “Not once did we say we’re not letting anybody leave. We said the road is now closing. This is your opportunity to leave.”

Camp workers said they were not warned about the imminent road closure, nor offered the opportunity to leave.

By Thursday, supplies at the camp were dwindling. According to one worker, whose identity The Tyee agreed to withhold due to employment concerns, they were rationing water by Wednesday.

RCMP called yesterday’s police action a rescue mission.

“We’ve got 500 people without food, sanitation and water,” Staff Sgt. Aaron Sproule, with RCMP’s Division Liaison Team, said as arrests were underway Thursday. “Our objective is to get the road clear to get those goods into that camp.”

Sproule added that the RCMP would focus on opening the road and arrest only those who blocked access. Coastal GasLink obtained a permanent injunction barring anyone from interfering with its operations on Dec. 31, 2019.

Shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, RCMP released a statement saying the road had been opened.

“One vehicle was lit on fire, and one decommissioned excavator was placed at the 62-kilometre mark of the Morice Forest Service Road,” the statement said. “Those have been cleared off the roadway, which was opened to CGL who were able to provide relief supply to their workers.”

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Coastal GasLink said water, food and other supplies are being delivered to the 500 workers who remain in camp, but the road is not yet open to the public.

While 15 people were taken into custody, journalist Melissa Cox was released later in the day without conditions. The remaining 14 are expected to appear in BC Supreme Court in Smithers Friday morning for a bail hearing.

851px version of RCMP arrest elder
Wet’suwet’en Elder Janet Williams is attended to by police while experiencing chest pains during arrests on the Morice West Forest Service Road. Williams was among those arrested in yesterday’s police action on Wet’suwet’en territory. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

Gidimt’en social media posts said two Elders were among those arrested. An RCMP news release said the individuals were having medical issues and “transported… out of the area as a precaution” after being assessed by on-site health services.

Wickham said she was denied access to the territory when she attempted to deliver medication to Elder Janet Williams on Wednesday. A journalist was turned away the same day.

RCMP initially said The Tyee would not be permitted beyond Kilometre 28 on the Morice road, where police have established a checkstop. The Tyee’s reporter was eventually allowed access with an escort from the RCMP’s Division Liaison Team.

Gidimt’en Camp was established two years ago by members of the Wet’suwet’en Gidimt’en Clan in support of the Unist’ot’en, a neighbouring house group that has opposed pipelines through the nation’s territory for more than a decade.

In January 2019, 14 people were arrested at the camp when they blocked access to the Morice road. At that time, a gate blocking access at Unist’ot’en Healing Centre was opened and Coastal GasLink employees were permitted to access the territory while an interim injunction was before the court.

One year later, on Jan. 4, 2020, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs closed the Morice road at Kilometre 39 after the BC Supreme Court granted an injunction to Coastal GasLink for the duration of pipeline construction.

Over five days in early February last year, RCMP enforced the injunction, arresting 28 people, including four at Gidimt’en Camp and seven at the healing centre.

851px version of Melissa Cox
Journalist Melissa Cox shows her press pass to an RCMP officer while being arrested Thursday. Cox said she was among the first taken into custody. She was later released without conditions. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

While the camps have remained in place and RCMP continue regular patrols in the area, no further arrests happened until September, when a new roadblock and camp, known as Coyote Camp, were constructed. Coastal GasLink intends to drill its pipeline under the Morice River, or Wedzin Kwa to the Wet’suwet’en, on the site.

In October, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Dsta’hyl was arrested as he attempted to seize equipment belonging to Coastal GasLink. Dsta’hyl, whose English name is Adam Gagnon, said he was denied access to the territory while monitoring pipeline construction as the senior enforcement officer for Likhts’amisyu Clan. He and Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, from the Gitxsan Nation, were arrested and Dsta’hyl charged with theft over $5,000.

In response to Thursday’s arrests, members of the neighbouring Gitxsan Nation announced they would block railways in Hazelton.

Other organizations were quick to criticize the RCMP’s raid.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs issued a statement Thursday objecting to the use of provincial resources to quell pipeline protests rather than addressing the province’s state of emergency in the south.

“We are absolutely outraged that the Province of B.C. authorized a military-style raid on peaceful land defenders in order to allow Coastal GasLink to build their Liquified Natural Gas pipeline, while much of the province is suffering from life-threatening, catastrophic flooding related events,” UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said.

“Prioritizing fossil fuel expansion while British Columbians grapple with a climate emergency is an alarming, criminal and incredibly poor decision by Premier Horgan and Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.”

Also Thursday, Amnesty International issued an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, B.C. Premier John Horgan and RCMP commissioner Brenda Lucki expressing concern over the arrival of RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory.

“This escalation is in contradiction with recommendations issued by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in December 2019, which call on Canada to withdraw police and security forces from the area,” Amnesty International Canada Secretary-General Ketty Nivyabandi said.

The letter urged the governments and RCMP to comply with a United Nations warning from two years ago asking Canada to withdraw security and policing services from Wet’suwet’en traditional territory and suspend work on Coastal GasLink, the Site C dam and Trans Mountain pipeline.

On Monday, the federal government missed a deadline to update the UN committee on its progress, saying it would wait until next year to issue the report.

Although the roads into the Coastal GasLink camps are now open, the recently established Coyote Camp remains along a spur road 63 kilometres along the Morice. It continues to be occupied by land defenders who are preventing the pipeline company from drilling planned for this fall.

It seems likely that RCMP enforcements on the territory will continue 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

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll