Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media in the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Province authorized more RCMP officers be deployed to Wet’suwet’en territory: letter

‘To be clear, no elected official in British Columbia directs police operations,’ Mike Farnworth says

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs are calling on Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to resign amid accusations that Premier John Horgan was not truthful when he said B.C. had no control over the RCMP and its enforcement of an injunction outside of Houston.

According to a letter released Friday from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Farnworth told RCMP Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan on Jan. 27 that he authorized the “internal redeployment of resources within the Provincial Police Services” to the Morice West Forest Service Road, where a group of Wet’suwet’en members and allies had set up blockades in protest of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Farnworth said the resources would be used to “maintain law and order, and to ensure the safety of persons, property and communities in the area.”

READ MORE: Canada doesn’t tell police what to do, Trudeau says of rail blockades

He agreed that the opposition to the pipeline construction had “intensified and evolved and the local jurisdictional police do not have sufficient resources to deal with the situation,” the letter reads, and declared a “provincial emergency” under the Provincial Police Service Agreement.

On Feb. 6, RCMP began enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction against demonstrators who were blocking access to the Coastal GasLink construction site along the forest service road. Over the course of roughly two weeks, 28 people were arrested.

ALSO READ: ‘The project is proceeding’: Horgan not backing down from support of Coastal GasLink

ALSO READ: John Horgan’s MLA office hit with red paint amid pipeline protests

During this time, Horgan said on at least two occasions that the province doesn’t have the authority to direct the RCMP in its responsibilities – mirroring similar comments made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks said in a statement that its inconsistent for the province to legislate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples while also authorizing the RCMP to deploy more officers.

“The province bears responsibility for the heavy RCMP deployment and for the policing of our people on our own territories,” he said. “In many of our discussions, the province was passing the buck for RCMP operations but this letter spells it out in black and white.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said the letter “reveals the blatant hypocrisy and lies” of the Horgan government.

“The province’s rhetoric about reconciliation rings even hollower,” he said in a statement. “We call for the immediate resignation of Mike Farnworth for dishonourable conduct and for declaring the Wet’suwet’en people a policing emergency and a threat on their own territories.”

Black Press Media has reached out to the Premier’s office, but could not be immediately reached.

In an emailed statement, Farnworth’s ministry said that the RCMP has the ability to request additional resources for temporary situations and did so in this case.

“To be clear, no elected official in British Columbia directs police operations,” Farnworth said in a statement.

The chiefs reached a tentative deal with federal and provincial ministers on Sunday over the First Nation’s claims of Aboriginal rights and title. Now the details of the deal, which have not been made public, are being discussed in clan meetings.

More to come.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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