Why did RCMP arrest 14 people at Wet’suwet’en Camp, and what happens next?

Why did RCMP arrest 14 people at Wet’suwet’en Camp, and what happens next?
Premier John Horgan addressed the conflict at a pipeline protest camp in northern BC and the intricacies of dealing with First Nations in the province.


On Jan. 8, 14 people were arrested in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation for allegedly failing to obey a court injunction that required the removal of a blockade.

The Unist’ot’en Camp was set up years ago to manage entry into the Indigenous territory. A blockade, called the Gitdumt’en access point, was set up further along the road. A December court injunction was granted in favour of Coastal GasLink, ordering protesters to remove the blockade.

The order was later expanded to include the Morice West Forest Service Road, on which the Gitdumt’en access point was located.

Over the weekend, RCMP vehicles and tactical units were spotted in the nearby towns of Houston and Smithers. The conflict came to a head on Monday when RCMP went to the blockade.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline project aims to connect fracking projects in the Peace Region to the upcoming $40-billion LNG Canada plant in Kitimat.

Coastal GasLink is a subsidiary of TransCanada Corp.

The pipeline route travels through Wet’suwet’en First Nation territory, and the nation’s elected leaders signed a benefits agreement with the province for Coastal GasLink in 2014.

Protesters say the project infringes on Aboriginal title, citing the 1997 Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada ruling. During that case, the court found that the Wet’suwet’en had not given up title to 22,000 square kilometres of territory.

Coastal GasLink has previously said it consulted with hereditary chiefs for more than five years and secured 20 project agreements with elected First Nations councils all along the pipeline route.

The elected officials in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have signed a project agreement with Coastal GasLink.

While there are some who support the pipeline, activists and demonstrators who disagree with the project were arrested at the Gitdumt’en access point, including Molly Wickham.

One person was released Monday evening on a promise to appear, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said, and the others were held to appear before a justice. Wickham says seven were released on Tuesday, and six were still in custody.

Saunderson said they appeared before the justice in relation to “alleged violations of the B.C. Supreme Court injunction.”
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