From [HERE] Indigenous protesters in Canada have called a growing police presence near their makeshift checkpoint “an act of war”, as tensions mount over a stalled pipeline project in northern British Columbia.
In defiance of a court order, dozens of protesters have gathered on a logging road nearly 700km (430 miles) north-west of Vancouver, to block the construction of a natural gas pipeline.
“We want them right off Wet’suwet’en territory,” Chief Madeek, a hereditary leader, told reporters at the gates of the checkpoint, where temperatures have dipped to -15C (5F).
On Monday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced they would enforce a court order to remove the demonstrators from the area, and at least 10 police cars and a helicopter arrived at the protest camp.
“The conflict between the oil and gas industries, indigenous communities, and governments all across the province has been ongoing for a number of years. This has never been a police issue. In fact, the BC RCMP is impartial and we respect the rights of individuals to peaceful, lawful and safe protest,” they said in a statement.
Energy company TransCanada is attempting to build the Coastal GasLink, a 670km line stretching from Dawson Creek to the coastal city of Kitimat. The C$6.2bn (US$4.6bn) project is part of a broader plan to ramp up natural gas exports in the province.
The company has previously said it has the support of all elected indigenous leaders along the proposed route, but Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have signaled they do not support the project – and argue that elected band leaders are not in the position to negotiate with the company.
“They’re not the title-holders or the caretakers of the land. The hereditary chiefs are,” said Madeek.
The pipeline project has previously faced numerous delays, after a group of protesters constructed a blockade – named Unist’ot’en Camp – in order to prevent construction vehicles from accessing the area.
On 14 December, a British Columbia court granted TransCanada an injunction permitting them access to the construction site and ordering the removal of the blockade. Within days, activists erected the new barrier, named the Gidimt’en checkpoint.
On Sunday, Unist’ot’en Camp issued a statement of support for the Gidimt’en checkpoint: “The RCMP’s ultimatum, to allow TransCanada access to unceded Wet’suwet’en territory or face police invasion, is an act of war. Canada is now attempting to do what it has always done – criminalize and use violence against indigenous people so that their unceded homelands can be exploited for profit.”
Both the Unist’ot’en and Gitimd’en are part of the five clans which make up the Wet’suwet’en. [MORE]