RCMP allows Gitxsan to continue illegal blockade

A blockade by members of the Gitxsan First Nation in Old Hazelton, B.C., has entered its sixth month and while band members say they have no intention of backing down, the RCMP admits it won't force them.

Six-month blockade arises out of split in northern B.C. First Nation

Hereditary Gitxsan First Nation chief Roy Wilson of the Wolf clan stands in front of the boarded-up Gitxsan Treaty Office on December 7, 2011. (George Baker/CBC)

A blockade by members of the Gitxsan First Nation in Old Hazelton, B.C., has entered its sixth month and band members have no intention of backing down — and the RCMP says it won't force them.

Members of the Gitxsan First Nation have camped outside the Gitxsan Treaty Society office since December because of an internal conflict over the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. 

Protesters boarded up the doors and windows and continue to refuse to allow employees to re-enter the building, despite a B.C. Supreme Court order to do so by Justice Mark McEwan. 

"We are trying to protect the data inside from employees that we have fired. They are an illegal society and there is nothing that can make them legal," said Gitxsan chief Norman Stephens, speaking on behalf of protesters.

"The judge is the one who has recognized that they are illegal. He hasn't been able to fix them. Now he's going to order a contempt of court order against us? We're protecting what's ours. We're standing up for our rights."

RCMP will not enforce court injunction

Hazleton RCMP say they don't plan on arresting the protesters — for now.

RCMP Supt. Paul Richards said that despite the outstanding court order, it's up to police to decide if and when they will remove the blockade.

"Well, the judge says he doesn't direct the police to, all right, enforce it. But it is the expectation that in law the injunction is enforceable."

Instead, Richards said local RCMP have stepped up patrols around the blockade because of the increasing size of the protest, and will remain impartial to the dispute and hope enforcement measures will not be necessary.


With files from the CBC's George Baker