The RCMP have set up an access control checkpoint on the Morice West Forest Service Road several kilometres from where the Wet’suwet’en felled trees leading to a Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline construction site near Houston.
The RCMP set up the checkpoint during the afternoon of Jan. 13.
When The Interior News reached the checkpoint an officer confirmed that they would be restricting access to the road until future notice but would not give any additional details.
According to an RCMP statement the purpose of the checkpoint — located at the 27-kilometre mark of Morice West Forest Service Road — is to mitigate safety concerns surrounding a number of fallen trees and hazardous items such as bottles of incendiary fluid that are located starting a few kilometres further down the road.
The RCMP say they are restricting access and while permission to enter the checkpoint must come from the Operations Commander or their delegate, access will typically be granted to the following persons:
Wet’suwet’en hereditary and elected chiefs; government officials; accredited journalists with recognized media outlets; persons who are providing food, medicine or other supplies meant for the well-being and safety of individuals behind the blockade; or other individuals as per the RCMP’s discretion.
However contrary to the above a spokesperson with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en told The Interior News that RCMP denied access to at least one member of the media and hereditary chief Rob Alfred earlier on Jan. 13.
Later in the evening Gidimt’en spokesperson Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) and a small group of both supporters and members of the media attempted to enter the checkpoint.
The Interior News has learned that while Wickham was told she was able to gain access past the checkpoint the RCMP would not let the entire group in.
On Jan. 15 the RCMP issued a statement addressing the above.
“As frontline police officers were implementing the new access procedure on the first day, there was some miscommunication that resulted in three individuals being turned away,” it reads.
“In one case the person would not provide basic details such as identification and purpose of travel, and in another case, there was a shift in weather conditions as nightfall approached. In the third case, another person transporting food and supplies, was not initially allowed access.”
RCMP say officers made arrangements for to transport supplies in for individuals turned away at the checkpoint. However they say both individuals decided to leave the area.
“The procedures have since been clarified and we have not had any reports of further issues and most individuals have been able to proceed. Based on a review by the Operations Commander, RCMP officers appeared to be acting professionally and in good faith. If there are public complaints made, we will ensure full disclosure of all information regarding the interaction including the video captured by police.”
Law enforcement has stressed they are an impartial party in the matter on multiple occasions and want to ensure the safety of all those involved.
They are also saying the checkpoint is not an exclusion zone.
“At this point, we are not enforcing the BC Supreme Court injunction to allow time for dialogue between the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, Elected Councils, Coastal GasLink and Government. The access control checkpoint is a measured response that reflects the need to prevent further escalation of the situation including the placement of hazards along the roadway and the creation of a third encampment blocking access. It also allows the RCMP to be accountable for the safety of all persons accessing this area given the hazards, unplowed roads and severe winter conditions.”
The trees in question were felled after the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs served the company with an eviction notice Jan. 4 in response to a B.C. Supreme Court injunction issued Dec. 31.
Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) has said the chiefs are steadfast that they will not allow the pipeline to proceed through their traditional territory.
A year ago, RCMP set up a similar exclusion zone prior to dismantling a Gidimt’en gate on a bridge and arrested 14 individuals while carrying out the enforcement of a December 2018 injunction granting CGL access to the area.
Meanwhile, B.C. premier John Horgan has said the pipeline will proceed despite opposition.