Police action imminent, RCMP tell Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs

Sunday, January 6th, 2019 11:59am


Image Caption

New access point 20 km up road from Unist’ot’en House Group.


“I remain calm inside because I know we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons.” —Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks

By Shari Narine
Windspeaker.com Contributor

As the RCMP roll into communities around Wet’suwet’en territory, grandparents and young children continue to grow the numbers at the Unist’ot’en House Group and the Gitdimt'en Clan’s access point on land that Coastal GasLink must access for pipeline construction.

RCMP Aboriginal Liaison Officer Ben Smith met with hereditary chiefs on Friday evening to tell them the RCMP would take action when directed by Coastal GasLink, said Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks in a call to Windspeaker.com last night.

The activity supports a B.C. Supreme Court injunction that allows the Trans Canada pipeline to be built.

The injunction stated that Coastal GasLink must have access to the road and bridge blocked by the Unist’ot’en House Group by Jan. 31. In response to the injunction, the Gitdimt'en Clan of the Wet'suwet'en erected an access point about 20 km further down the same logging road.

On Jan. 5, legal counsel for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association sent a letter to RCMP Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr expressing concern about an “influx of RCMP members” in Smithers.

That same day, Na’Moks said he was made aware that the RCMP had moved members into the neighbouring communities of Burns Lake and Houston as well.

“We did have a discussion earlier in the summer about good communication,” said Na’Moks. “I guess this is (RCMP’s) version of communication. Tell us something one day and then move in the next. This has been in the works for a while. You don’t get those many RCMP spread out that far on just a whim.”

Na’Moks says while numbers aren’t known – he’s been told there are at least two busloads of RCMP officers in Smithers and “20-some odd” vehicles in a convoy that went to Burns Lake. He knows there is a “large contingent” spread out over the three communities.

“My friend, who actually lives there, says … there are two large vehicles and one is a large semi and it’s got a jail-like structure on the back.  She said it looks like jails-on-wheels,” said Na’Moks.

In the past when RCMP took similar action, he said, there were over 200 officers employed.

Na’Moks says Smith offered no timeline as to when RCMP would move in or what they would do.  Such vagueness, he says, is being used as a psychological tactic. He says chiefs expect the RCMP will take action today or Monday.

“We’re nervous,” he said. Anybody would be with a force like that coming onto their territory, Na’Moks added. But we know we’re right and in that sense we will remain calm and peaceful. But the fact that they would pull such force of numbers on Canadian citizens as Indigenous people, as hereditary people, it seems unfair,” said Na’Moks, who adds that he’s the son of a World War veteran.

Na’Moks said he has spoken to local NDP MP Nathan Cullen to issue a statement about government absence as the situation unfolds

“Where’s this reconciliation they talk about? If this is it, then we haven’t made any advancement since the 1800s,” said Na’Moks.

“I remain calm inside because I know we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons,” he said.

A news release issued by the Gitdimt'en Camp on Jan. 5, stated, “The RCMP’s ultimatum, to allow TransCanada access to unceded Wet'suwet'en territory or face police invasions, is an act of war.”

January 8 has been declared “an international day of action (to) support the Wet'suwet'en by offering physical support to the camps, monetary or material donations, or by taking action where you stand,” reads the news release, which also stresses that all actions must remain peaceful.

“Forcible trespass onto Wet'suwet'en territories and the removal of Indigenous peoples from their lands must be stopped.”

Trans Canada’s approximately 700 km long pipeline is to carry natural gas from northeastern B.C. to a liquefied natural gas plant slated for construction in Kitimat. It is part of an estimated $40 billion natural gas project.

Related: Leader wants to avoid violent clash with RCMP https://windspeaker.com/news/windspeaker-news/leader-hopes-avoid-violent-clash-rcmp-unistoten-camp