Chief Gisday’wa with the remains of a structure alongside the Morice Forest Service Road burned in an arson fire overnight from Aug. 14 to Aug. 15. Two suspects have now been identified. (Gidimt’en Clan photo)

Morice Forest Service Road arson probe continues

Cabin belonged to a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief

RCMP say they continue to investigate the arson of a cabin belonging to a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief along the Morice Forest Service Road that happened overnight of Aug. 14.

The investigation includes the taking of a vehicle without the owner’s permission from another location that is unrelated to the cabin location, said RCMP Corporal Madonna Saunderson.

Last week, RCMP said they identified two male suspects from Burns Lake, one 24 and the other 19, who work in the Houston area.

Saunderson said there is no timeline yet as to when officers will be forwarding information to Crown prosecutors regarding charges.

“We follow all investigational procedures, evidence and any tips and leads we may receive,” she said.

The cabin belonging to Fred Tom, Chief Gisday’wa of the Gidimt’en clan, was adjacent to a checkpoint established by the clan that figured in protests earlier this year of Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline now under construction.

A Gidimt’en release has called the fire a hate crime and the “latest in a long series of arsons undertaken by settlers, industries, and state agents against Wet’suwet’en homesites that have occurred since contact.”

“There is no evidence at this time to suggest that this is hate motivated,” said Saunderson of the RCMP investigation.

Taking a vehicle without an owner’s permission is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and is a separate offence from the theft of a motor vehicle.

RCMP called their investigation a priority with Sgt. Mark Smaill of the Houston RCMP detachment.

The fire was first reported to RCMP officers attached to a unit separate from the Houston detachment. Called the Community-Industry Response Group, these officers have been in the Houston area for several years, patrolling the area of the Morice Forest Service Road in light of the pipeline construction protests and a supreme court injunction banning the obstruction of the construction.

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