Solicitor General Mike Farnworth authorized redeploying RCMP resources in response to Coastal GasLink's injunction

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      In late January, B.C.'s "top cop", Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, concluded that gathering opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline constituted a "provincial emergency" under the B.C. government's agreement with the Mounties.

      So, under article 9.1 of the Provincial Police Services Agreement with the RCMP, Farnworth authorized "the internal redeployment of resources within the Provincial Police Service to the extent necessary to maintain law and order, and to ensure the safety of persons, properties, and communities in the area".

      This is revealed in a January 27 letter that Farnworth wrote to Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan, the commanding officer of E Division in Surrey.

      Farnworth's letter was in response to a January 14 letter from the RCMP about the "potential police response required" to enforce the B.C. Supreme Court injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink.

      Farnworth acknowledged the RCMP's insistence that "opposition to the pipeline construction near Houston, BC has intensified and evolved and the local jurisdictional police do not have sufficient resources to deal with this situation".

      "The operational deployment of resources and operational decisions are solely within the internal management and control of the RCMP; however, I ask that you please continue to inform the ministry of planned actions and any further developments through established channels between executive Policing and Security Branch and RCMP staff," Farnworth wrote.

      He ended his letter by declaring his appreciation for "the urgency of these situations and look forward to receiving a report on the actual redeployment that was required, the composition of the members redeployed, including any equipment that was required".

      "I understand the costs related to emergencies are tracked and monitored separately and I look forward to receiving a detailed accounting of these costs," Farnworth stated in his concluding sentence. 

      Solicitor General Mike Farnworth was satisfied that there was a "provincial emergency" when people gathered on traditional Wet'suwet'en territory to support hereditary chiefs' opposition to a pipeline.
      Stephen Hui

      On March 3, Premier John Horgan's envoy to the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, former NDP MP Nathan Cullen, declared over Twitter that it isn't in the job description of a prime minister to call in or call off the police with regard to blockades.

      Cullen's tweet made no mention, however, of the authority of the NDP solicitor general in B.C. to authorize the redeployment of police resources in response to a court injunction obtained by a corporation.

      The B.C. government announced that Cullen would be the provincial liaison between the province and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs on January 27—the very same day that Farnworth wrote to Strachan authorizing the redeployment of police resources.

      The Mounties deployed massive firepower as they cleared peaceful protesters and created an enormous exclusion zone along the Morice West Forest Service Road in early February.

      This occurred on unceded, traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, whose hereditary chiefs objected to the RCMP "invasion". The hereditary chiefs say the pipeline project violates Wet'suwet'en law.

      In one memorable video, an RCMP officer appears to be pointing a rifle at Tlingit member Anne Spice and Gitxsan member Denzel Sutherland-Wilson while they were on a tower. Sutherland-Wilson is heard pleading with the officer to stop pointing the rifle.

      The RCMP enforcement action prompted the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs to amend a complaint to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.

      According to these two groups, a police decision to restrict movement from beyond the road's four-kilometre mark was outside the scope of the B.C. Supreme Court injunction.

      "There is absolutely no legal precedent nor established legal authority for such an overbroad policing power associated with the enforcement of an injunction," the two organizations wrote. "The implementation and enforcement of the RCMP exclusion zone in Wet'suwet'en territory is unlawful."

      The presence of so many Mounties in the area led Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs' sympathizers to set up blockades at Canadian ports, railways, and roads, causing economic disruptions.