Showdown expected in northwestern B.C. between RCMP and Indigenous protesters over pipeline project

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      There's a growing sense that police will soon try to shut down a protest camp set up to halt construction of the 670-kilometre Coastal Gaslink pipeline.

      Owned by TransCanada Pipelines, it's a key component of the $40-billion LNG Canada project being built near Kitimat.

      The pipeline would transport natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to the facility, crossing over the traditional territory of several First Nations.

      On January 5, members of the RCMP's Aboriginal police liaison warned Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs that tactical forces would forcibly remove demonstrators who have created two checkpoints, according to the Unist'ot'en camp website.

      "Police refused to provide any details of their operation to the Dini’ze and Tsake’ze (hereditary chiefs) including the number of officers moving in, the method of forcible removal, or the timing of deployment," it states. "By rejecting the requests for information by the Dini’ze and Tsake’ze the RCMP indicated that they intend to surprise and overwhelm the Wet’suwet’en people who are protecting their territories on the ground."

      Dozens of RCMP officers have been seen in the northwestern B.C. communities of Houston and Smithers.

      This comes more than three weeks after Coastal Gaslink Pipeline Ltd. obtained an interim injunction in B.C. Supreme Court. It was against those "obstructing, blocking, physically impeding or delaying access" in the area around the Morice River Bridge or the area accessed by Morice West Forest Service Road.

      This YouTube video shows Coastal Gaslink employees being turned away in November.

      Justice Marguerite H. Church's order prohibits people from coming within 10 metres of employees or vehicles of the company, its contractors, and its subcontractors.

      The order also bans "threatening or intimidating" the plaintiff or anyone who's in a contractual or economic relationship with the plaintiff.

      The LNG Canada project has been approved by the B.C. and federal governments. It will generate an estimated 3.45 megatonnes of carbon emissions per year, according to the B.C. government.

      Some feel that this figure has been lowballed. Marc Lee of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, for instance, has declared that "emissions from the facility plus those from further up the gas supply chain would be in the range of 9–12 Mt of CO2 per year". 

      "The rest of BC's economy would have to fully decarbonize to accommodate emissions from LNG Canada while staying within new legislated targets," Lee wrote in a policy note last year.

      LNG Canada's largest shareholder is Shell Canada Energy, with a 50 percent stake. Other shareholders are PetroChina, Korea Gas Corporation, and Mitsubishi.

      One of the blockades is called the Gidimt'en Access Point. The other is the long-standing Unist'ot'en encampment, which is along the Morice River.

      This YouTube video shows a recent discussion between an RCMP officer and Freda Huson about the Delgamuukw decision in the Supreme Court of Canada.
      Unist'ot'en camp

      The demonstrators argue that the Wet'suwet'en people have never ceded their lands. And they maintain that their Aboriginal title was confirmed in the Supreme Court of Canada's Delgamuukw decision in 1997.

      “How can there be reconciliation when they don’t even acknowledge who we are," Hereditary Chief Na'mocks said on the Unist'ot'en camp website. "We are the rights and title holders, we are the highest ranking Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation."

      The alternative website The Real News posted this video on YouTube on December 23.