The RCMP has launched a criminal investigation relating to traps likely to cause bodily arm after discovering hazardous blockades in the area around construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline near Houston, B.C.
It’s the latest development in an ongoing disagreement about the project’s access to the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
The 670-kilometre, $6.6-billion pipeline will deliver natural gas from Northeast B.C. to the LNG Canada project that is currently under construction at Kitimat.
It has signed mutual benefit agreements with the elected councils of all 20 Indigenous groups along its route.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that last week that the Coastal GasLink project has all necessary permits and authorizations to construct, issuing an injunction against protesters supporting the Wet'suwe'ten hereditary chiefs who oppose the project, stating that “the law does not recognize any right to blockade and obstruct [Coastal GasLink] from pursuing lawfully authorized activities.”
That was followed by an “eviction notice” delivered to Coastal GasLink over the weekend by the hereditary chiefs, and then a notice by Coastal GasLink on Wednesday giving opponents 72 hours to clear the way toward its work site.
The RCMP said Thursday that on Monday, frontline officers conducting patrols to ensure the safety of individuals at the Wet’suwet’en Healing Centre, Coastal GasLink employees and general public were stopped by a blockade of fallen trees.
Officers conducted foot patrols and noted several dozen trees had been felled across the roadway.
“Of particular concern for safety, they noted some trees that were partly cut in readiness for felling. This creates a hazard where these trees can fall unexpectedly due to wind. Three stacks of tires were also noticed, each covered by tarps and trees, and contained several jugs of accelerants – gasoline, diesel, oil, kindling and bags full of fuel soaked rags,” the RCMP said in a statement.
“These concerning items have been brought to the attention of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. They have also been advised that the RCMP has entered into a criminal investigation under Section 247 of the Criminal Code for Traps Likely to Cause Bodily Harm.”
The RCMP said it wants to emphasize that “we are impartial in this dispute and our priority is to facilitate a dialogue between the various stakeholders involved. We remain hopeful that these efforts will result in a resolution.”
In a statement, Coastal GasLink president David Pfeiffer called the findings extremely disappointing.
“Coastal GasLink respects the rights of individuals to peacefully and lawfully protest so long as their activities do not jeopardize the safety of the public, our employees, our contractors, or the RCMP,” he said.
“Our primary concern is the safety of all users of this public forestry road, including those who wish to protest our activities. Unlawful actions that put people at risk for serious harm are dangerous, reckless and unacceptable, and do not reflect peaceful protest.
“Once again, I invite Chief Namox to meet with Coastal GasLink so we can try to find common ground and a mutually agreeable solution that ensures the safety of all involved and that results in a peaceful resolution.”