RCMP today moved in 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.
According to RCMP, 14 people were arrested Thursday, were held in custody and were scheduled to appear in court Friday, November 19.
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.
“The blockade of the Morice Forest Service Road threatens the health and safety of over 500 workers who are currently trapped,” Coastal GasLink says in a new release issued today.
Police are characterizing the enforcement of the injunction today 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.”
In update, RCMP say they discovered "considerable damage" to the Lamprey Creek Bridge, "with both ends and the footings dug out.
"An overturned vehicle covered in debris and concrete had been placed at the east side of the bridge, and 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 west side of the bridge."
RCMP have set up an access control point at the 27.5 kilometre mark of the Morice Forest Service Road.
"There will be police presence at this location at all times, and anyone requesting to travel through will be assessed based on requirement," the RCMP said in a press release.
Protesters with the Gidimt'en Check point group have accused RCMP of preventing food and medical supplies from being brought in to the Unist'ot'en healing lodge set up at kilometre 66 of the Shae Forest Service Road, which connects with the Morice West Forest Service Road, and that hereditary chiefs and elders are being prevented from getting through an RCMP checkpoint -- allegations RCMP say are "completely false."
"Medical supplies and food items can be dropped off at the Access Control Point and individuals may arrange for them to be picked up by others already on the other side of the ACP," the RCMP say in a press release. "Anyone wishing to travel through the ACP will be assessed based on their requirement."
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information from the RCMP.