Unist’ot’en Protesters Await RCMP

Breaking News Update

There is a developing situation happening in British Columbia as federal authorities seek to have a BC Supreme Court Injunction to halt protestors on the traditional lands of the Unist’ot’en near Houston, British Columbia.

Hereditary chiefs and supporters this morning continue to stand their ground seeking support to their position. Supporters are claiming that the United Nations Declaration on the Inherent Rights of Indigenous Peoples are being violated.

Over the weekend, the RCMP and government officials gathered resources, to apparently dismantle a road blockade put in place to fight against the Coastal GasLink Project which is a proposed pipeline that would cross the lands.

This morning reports from 06:30 am PST from checkpoint “Police are on the move We have confirmation that the RCMP, tactical units, multiple buses and numerous unmarked vehicles are loaded and moving out of Smithers at the moment”

Statement by RCMP “E” Division in British Columbia

On December 14, 2018, the BC Supreme Court issued an interim injunction against protesters who interfere with the Coastal GasLink project, in and around the Morice River Bridge or the area accessed by the Morice West Forest Service Road. As with previous injunction orders and police enforcement clauses, the Court issues the Injunction Order, and then the police is given discretion to determine how and when to implement the Order.

For the land in question, where the Unist’ot’en camp is currently located near Houston, BC, it is our understanding that there has been no declaration of Aboriginal title in the Courts of Canada. In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada issued an important decision, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, that considered Aboriginal title to Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en traditional territories. The Supreme Court of Canada decided that a new trial was required to determine whether Aboriginal title had been established for these lands, and to hear from other Indigenous nations which have a stake in the territory claimed. The new trial has never been held, meaning that Aboriginal title to this land, and which Indigenous nation holds it, has not been determined. Regardless of the outcome of any such trial in the future, the RCMP is the police agency with jurisdiction.

We would like to emphasize that the RCMP respects the Wet’suwet’en culture, the connection to the land and traditions being taught and passed on at the camp, and the importance of the camp to healing. We also recognize the importance of open and direct dialogue between all parties involved in this dispute. Through the Division Liaison Team and the Indigenous Policing Section, the RCMP have maintained a dialogue with the residents of the Unist’ot’en camp over the last several months, to discuss the possibility of an injunction order being issued and what our role is, as police of jurisdiction, in enforcing that order. Should enforcement take place, the RCMP will be prepared to ensure the safety of everyone involved – demonstrators, police officers, area residents, motorists, media and general public.

The primary concerns of the police are public safety, police officer safety, and preservation of the right to peaceful, lawful and safe protest, within the terms set by the Supreme Court in the injunction.

In planning for the enforcement of this injunction, police are taking the remote location of the Morice River Bridge into account and will be ensuring that enough police officers will be present in the area to keep the peace and ensure everyone’s safety. We also want to assure the residents that the day to day policing operations within the Houston area will be unaffected throughout the enforcement of the injunction.

We will continue to monitor the situation and work with all stakeholders to provide assistance as necessary in maintaining peace and keeping everyone safe.

Released by:

E Division Communication Services