RCMP Asst. Comm. Eric Stubbs said police will review their actions in clearing out pipeline protest camps in northern B.C during a press conference in Surrey on Jan. 14. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

RCMP to review actions at Indigenous pipeline protest camps

Senior Mountie says he hopes protests will be peaceful following deal with hereditary chiefs

The BC RCMP say they will be reviewing their actions in the clearing of a pipeline protest camp last week in Wet’suwet’en traditional territory south of Smithers.

Speaking at their headquarters in Surrey on Monday, Asst. Comm. Eric Stubbs said he hoped a recently signed agreement coupled with a temporary detachment of officers sent to the area will lead to more peaceful protests going forward.

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Tensions have been high at the two protest camps, and last week 14 people were arrested as police tried to enforce a court injunction to allow workers access to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

When complete, the 670-kilometre pipeline will ship natural gas from the Peace region to a $40-billion LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat.

Stubbs said police went in on Jan. 7 to clear a gate set up at the Gitumd’en camp after talks to resolve the conflict peacefully failed.

RCMP went over a barricade set up by protesters in what Stubbs called a “extremely challenging situation” for officers.

“The protesters’ reaction to the police ranged from passive resistance to active resistance to actual assaultive behaviour,” Stubbs said.

“One person secured themselves to the bottom of the barricade, making climbing over the gate necessary. Two others attached themselves to the underside of a bus that was blocking access to the bridge.”

Stubbs addressed “some concerns over our actions,” including police in tactical gear shown in videos that were taken at the protest camps.

Protesters have objected to the use of RCMP on Indigenous traditional territory, saying Canadian police have no jurisdiction in the region.

“Given the remoteness of the location and the unpredictability of what we could have faced, we developed an operational plan that included moving additional police resources into the area,” Stubbs said.

He said Mounties will conduct an “after-action review” by looking through body cam, drone, helicopter, RCMP and publicly available videos.

“To date, we have not identified any issue in police officer conduct.”

The agreement includes sending a temporary RCMP detachment to the region and allowing Coastal GasLink workers access to their worksites, while protecting the Wet’suwet’en’s right to protest.

It also allows a Unist’ot’en healing camp to remain in place and for Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to provide “cultural awareness training” to officers.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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