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B.C. premier 'confident' for peaceful resolution after arrests at Gidimt'en camp checkpoint

Fourteen people were taken into custody Monday at the barrier southwest of Houston, where members of the Gidimt'en clan of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation had set up a camp to control access to construction across their territory.

Statement comes after 14 people arrested at pipeline blockade in northern B.C.

B.C. Premier John Horgan addresses the media in Victoria two days after 14 people were arrested at the Gidimt'en camp checkpoint in northern B.C. while trying to block access to a planned pipeline that would run through their territory. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The premier of B.C. says he's "confident" there will be a "peaceful resolution" to an ongoing standoff between RCMP and protesters in northern B.C. who are trying to block access to a planned pipeline that would run through their territory.

"It is my hope and expectation that everyone is focused on working toward a peaceful resolution to the impasse," Horgan said at a news conference in Victoria on Wednesday morning.

The premier's comments come after 14 people were taken into custody at the barrier southwest of Houston, where members of the Gidimt'en clan of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation had set up a camp to control access to construction across their territory. 

RCMP were enforcing a court injunction, granted in December, ordering people to stop preventing Coastal GasLink pipeline workers from gaining access to the road and a bridge.

RCMP officers climb over a barricade and start making arrests to enforce the Coastal GasLink injunction at the Gidimt'en camp in northern B.C. on Jan. 7, 2019. 1:42

The pipeline is meant to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coastal district of Kitimat, where an LNG Canada facility is scheduled for construction.  

On Wednesday, Horgan said he respects the right to protest but said protesters are "breaking the law and there are consequences for that."

"That's why 14 people were arrested," he said.

"However, it's my expectation that RCMP will conduct themselves with the greatest of care to ensure that those in the territory rights' are respected."

Members of the Wet'suwet'en Nation had established two camps along the forest service road with fortified checkpoints: Gidimt'en and Unist'ot'en. They said pipeline workers could only pass with consent from hereditary leaders.

The arrests sparked protests across the country Tuesday, with rallies in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Richibucto, N.B., among others. 

Horgan said those demonstrations weren't solely focused on what's happening in northern B.C.

"I don't want to diminish the significance of the protests yesterday but they were not uniformly focused on Wet'suwet'en territory," he said. "There was a whole bunch of discontent on display ... and I absolutely respect that."

Demonstrators wielding drums hold their hands in the air, as a large demonstration in support of Wet'suwet'en Nation members blocked Vancouver streets on Tuesday afternoon. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The protests also disrupted a scheduled speech from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was to address a forum bringing together federal officials and representatives from self-governing First Nations that have modern treaties with the Crown.

On Wendesday, Trudeau said it wasn't "ideal'' that 14 people had been arrested. He spoke from prior to his visit to the city of Kamloops to attend a Liberal party fundraiser and a town hall gathering, where more protests were being held.

$6.2B pipeline

LNG Canada announced it was moving ahead with its plans for the Kitimat export facility in October.

Construction on the $6.2-billion pipeline, which is 670 kilometres long, is scheduled to begin this month.

Tensions over a proposed pipeline on disputed Indigenous land led to fourteen arrests in January. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Horgan said LNG Canada's decision would help an economically deprived region of the province and bring in an estimated $23 billion in provincial revenue.

The pipeline company, which launched its new name of TC Energy on Wednesday, has said it has signed agreements with all First Nations along the route but demonstrators say Wet'suwet'en house chiefs, who are hereditary rather than elected, have not given their consent.

With files from CBC News