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RCMP limits access to protest camps, meets with chiefs opposed to $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink

RCMP limits access to protest camps, meets with chiefs opposed to $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink
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CALGARY – A series of meetings between police and a group of hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs opposed to the $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline have failed to ease tensions in north-central British Columbia, where RCMP are now limiting access to protest camps.

Late Monday, RCMP released a statement saying Commanding Officer, Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan held a series of meeting with both hereditary and elected Wet’suwet’en chiefs to discuss the blockade established along a forestry service road leading to a work camp for the Coastal GasLink pipeline, near Houston, B.C.

While the RCMP did not respond to a request for comment, the release noted that police emphasized that the “primary concerns for the RCMP are public and officer safety” after officers on patrol last week found bags of gasoline-soaked rags, kindling and bottles containing fuels among stacks of tires along the forestry service road. At the time, police said they had opened a criminal investigation for traps likely to cause bodily harm after discovering the tires, fuels, trees felled across the road and partially cut trees.

A series of social media posts from the Unist’ot’en Camp, where the group of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters have blockaded work from continuing on the project, called the check point “a violation of our human rights, Wet’suwet’en law, and our constitutionally protected rights as Indiegnous people.”

The group did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

While police met with the opposed hereditary chiefs, a letter from Coastal GasLink president David Pfeiffer indicates the company building the pipeline project has yet to meet with the opposed chiefs.

“We continue to be available to meet yourself and the other Hereditary Chiefs this Friday, Jan. 17 in Smithers at your offices and hope a meeting can be arranged,” Pfeiffer wrote in his letter.

The standoff has highlighted divisions between elected and hereditary chiefs in northern B.C. and also issues of how and whether First Nations’ laws are applied within the broader scope of Canadian law.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan told a news conference Monday that Indigenous peoples have used courts to successfully assert their rights and title, but in “this instance the courts have confirmed that the project can proceed and will proceed.”

“We want everyone to understand that there are agreements from the Peace Country to Kitimat with Indigenous communities that want to see economic activity and prosperity to take place,” Horgan said. “All the permits are in place for this project to proceed. This project is proceeding and the rule of law needs to prevail in B.C.”

Spokespeople for two B.C. ministries said the government had not met with the opposed Wet’suwet’en chiefs to discuss the dispute over the pipeline, which will connect to the $40-billion LNG Canada project, which is the single largest private sector investment in the province’s history.

The LNG Canada project and connected $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline has the support of all 20 elected First Nations council along the route but a group of hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en Nation, in north-central B.C. have opposed the project and have demanded work stop on the pipeline through their region.

Shell Canada Ltd. is overseeing construction of the LNG Canada project while Calgary-based pipeline giant TC Energy Corp. is building the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is jointly owned by Alberta Investment Management Corp. and New York-based private equity giant KKR & Co. Inc.

The company expects to begin full construction work in August

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