British Columbia

Two more arrests at new Wet'suwet'en blockade near Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C.

Less than two weeks after RCMP arrested dozens of people at blockades and cleared access to pipeline work camps, there have been two more arrests at a new blockade.

RCMP say police dismantled roadblock, arrested 2 people in camouflage

A photo taken Nov.14, during the ongoing land rights conflict between supporters of several Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and builders of Coastal GasLink pipeline across northern B.C. (Layla Staats)

Two people were arrested Monday morning after blockading an access road used by the company building a gas pipeline on traditional Indigenous territories in northern B.C. 

RCMP arrested about 30 Wet'suwet'en members and supporters — along with two photojournalists — in the same area on Nov. 18 and 19.

At the time, police officials said they had dismantled blockades "to rescue" more than 500 pipeline employees stranded in Coastal GasLink work camps because of dwindling water and food supplies.

"The area has been cleared of all obstacles at this time and industry has access..."  RCMP stated in an unsigned news release Nov.19. 

But now, ten days later, a police patrol encountered another blockade and three people dressed in camouflage on the access road used by Coastal GasLink, said RCMP North District spokesperson Cpl. Madonna Saunderson.

She said a fire was burning on the road Monday morning and a vehicle had  been placed across the route.

Saunderson said two people were arrested for contempt of a court order and mischief.

Two pipeline industry vehicles following behind the police patrol were then able to continue up the road, she said.

Saunderson said that "police resources will be in the area to ensure that the roads remain accessible and unobstructed."

The two people arrested were released from the RCMP detachment in Houston, B.C., after signing an agreement to stay away from the area and return to court at a later date.

The Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline would run from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, B.C., through traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en. (Office of the Wet'suwet'en/CBC)

Jennifer Wickham, media coordinator for the Gidimt'en Checkpoint, confirmed today's arrests. The checkpoint controls access to parts of the traditional territory claimed by the Gidimt'en clan of the Wet'suwet'en,

A social media post from the Gidimt'en Checkpoint stated that a fire was set on the road and "Coastal GasLink work was stopped."

Coastal GasLink provided an unsigned statement to CBC News. "We respect the rights of individuals to lawfully, safely and peacefully express their point of view and our top priority remains the safety of those in the area."

Coastal GasLink has signed deals with 20 First Nation elected band councils along the pipeline route, including the Wet'suwet'en. But the project has not won approval from some hereditary chiefs who say they are responsible for the wider traditional territories of the Wet'suwet'en.

About 5,000 workers across northern B.C. are halfway through the construction of the $6.6-billion pipeline.

It's designed to carry natural gas obtained by fracking in northeastern B.C. to a $40-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on the province's North Coast for export to Asia.

A Kahnawake Mohawk Peacekeeper looks at a barricaded CP rail line near Montreal in February 2020. It was among a series of blockages set up across Canada to support Wet'suwet'en Nation hereditary chiefs opposed to the construction of a natural gas pipeline on their traditional territory. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The blockades set up in recent months by people who call themselves land defenders are on the same disputed land that made international headlines in early 2020.

That's when several Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters blocked access to Coastal GasLink pipeline worksites, sparking a nationwide discussion about who gets a say in resource development on land claimed as traditional territory.

In 2020, an RCMP crackdown in the area sparked rail blockades across the country in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en.