Wet’suwet’en camp leader, journalists arrested as RCMP enforce pipeline injunction in northern B.C.

November 20, 2021
Wet'suwet'en camp leader, journalists arrested as RCMP enforce pipeline injunction in northern B.C.

Fifteen more people, including a key leader in the fight against the Coastal GasLink pipeline as well as two journalists, were arrested Friday as police action continued against opponents of the project being built west of Prince George, B.C.

RCMP broke down the door at a resistance camp, known as Coyote camp, that has occupied a key work site for Coastal GasLink since Sept. 25, and arrested multiple occupants — including two whom police say identified themselves as journalists.

The camp had halted Coastal GasLink’s plans to drill a tunnel for their natural gas pipeline under the Wedzin Kwa river

Police said upon arrival at the camp Friday, they read a copy of a B.C. Supreme Court injunction notice allowing pipeline construction to move forward and warned those inside to leave multiple times, before forcibly entering and making arrests.

So far, a total of 29 people have been arrested for breach of the B.C. Supreme Court injunction in a multi-day operation by the RCMP which the police force says has also involved removing felled trees and overturned equipment to make forest service roads supporting pipeline construction passable.

Jennifer Wickham, media coordinator for the Gidimt’en Checkpoint, said her sister Sleydo’ — also known as Molly Wickham — was among those arrested Friday.

Sleydo’ has been a key voice of opposition and organization against the pipeline.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) said those arrested Friday also included photojournalist Amber Bracken, who was on assignment for news outlet The Narwhal, and documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano.

In a statement, the CAJ said it is “deeply concerned” by the arrests and is seeking more information. The Narwhal, in a statement of its own, said it “extremely disturbed” by the arrest and said Bracken was carrying a formal letter of assignment with her.

Latest in standoff over pipeline 

On Nov. 18, 14 people were arrested as RCMP dismantled blockades along the Morice River Forest Service Road that lead to two work camps.

The blockades stranded about 500 Coastal GasLink employees, causing water rations and fears over food shortages, after the company declined to comply with an eviction notice issued by the Gidimt’en Checkpoint, which controls access to part of the Wet’suwet’en territory. 

Police said of the 14 people arrested Nov. 18, one has been released with no charges, eight have been released with conditions and five are being transported to Prince George for a court appearance Monday.

WATCH | Renewed Wet’suwet’en pipeline standoff results in arrests:

Renewed Wet’suwet’en pipeline standoff results in arrests

Several people were arrested at an illegal barricade put up by Wet’suwet’en members and hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal Gas Link Pipeline, despite the project having the support of the First Nation’s elected chiefs. 2:06

Sleydo’ said last month that members of the Gidimt’en are making their stand now to protect the Wedzin Kwa. “It’s our sacred headwaters, our clean drinking water, and our salmon spawning river,” she said.

In 2020, the enforcement of a B.C. Supreme Court injunction led to solidarity protests across Canada, including the shutdown of railways in eastern Ontario.

Members of the Gidimt’en Clan called on supporters to repeat history and shut down key infrastructure, like highways and railways. 

In response, support rallies occurred in communities across the country on Friday — including in Victoria, Toronto and Caledonia, Ont., where the Highway 6 bypass was shut down.

“The Wet’suwet’en people have been defending the yintah [territory] for thousands of years and that is never going to stop,” said Wickham. 

Coastal GasLink has signed deals with 20 First Nation elected band councils along the pipeline route, including from Wet’suwet’en territory, but has not won approval of the majority of hereditary chiefs.

The elected council of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation issued a statement Wednesday condemning the ongoing pipeline resistance.

In an online statement issued Friday, Coastal GasLink confirmed that supplies have been reaching the two worker camps that were previously cut off. The company called the steps taken by the RCMP “unfortunate” but necessary to restore access to bring supplies, including food and water, to their employees and contractors.

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