British Columbia

RCMP urge Coastal GasLink pipeline protesters to leave disputed area or face arrest

The B.C. RCMP say they are ready to enforce an injunction order against protesters of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Police say they will enforce injunction order with minimum use of force

A group of people, some in First Nation's regalia and carrying drums, march beneath a sign saying 'We Stand with Wet'suwet'en.'
Hereditary Chief Ronnie West, centre, from the Lake Babine First Nation, sings and beats a drum during a solidarity march after Indigenous nations and supporters gathered for a meeting to show support for the Wet'suwet'en Nation, in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 16, 2019. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The B.C. RCMP say they are ready to enforce an injunction order against protesters of the Coastal GasLink pipeline —and urge protesters to leave the area or face arrest.

"If there are arrests to be made there are peaceful options that will require minimal use of force," said Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs, criminal operations officer for the B.C. RCMP.

Stubbs said officers are instructed to use the least amount of force that is reasonable to safely arrest a protester. He said Mounties prefer peaceful options, including voluntary arrests or physically carrying away someone who isn't resisting.

But Stubbs stressed that injunction orders are mandatory, "not optional invitations or suggestions" for everyone involved.

"Police are not at liberty to choose which orders to follow," Stubbs told reporters at a press conference Wednesday.

Last-ditch talks between the British Columbia government and Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to an ongoing standoff over the natural gas pipeline, broke down Tuesday evening.  

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The talks unfolded against the backdrop of looming RCMP enforcement of the injunction, which was issued at the end of December.

Hereditary chief Woos released a video statement Wednesday, objecting to the RCMP's presence and saying the Wet'suwet'en are being framed as the "bad guys" in the current situation.

"We're not safe at all and their presence is not trusted at all, not one bit," he said. "We are not convinced that this is going to go peacefully."

The injunction prohibits ongoing physical obstructions along a snowy forest road in the heart of Wet'suwet'en territory that were put up to stop workers from  accessing the pipeline construction site. 

The Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs say their protest against the $6-billion, 670-kilometre pipeline is and will remain peaceful.

Discussions between the chiefs and the province began last Thursday after former NDP MP Nathan Cullen was appointed to act as a liaison.

The company says it plans to resume construction on the pipeline in the coming days.