The RCMP has clarified its position on its intention to exit the Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C., following a statement from the federal public safety minister surrounding the fierce dispute on the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
In an emailed statement on Friday, the B.C. RCMP clarified that it will remove its officers from the West Morice Service Road in Houston only if the hereditary chiefs commit to keeping the road open to all users, including pipeline construction workers.
“The RCMP understands that not all Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are available for an immediate discussion, however in anticipation of a meeting, planning has been set in motion to transition operations from the service road to the Houston Detachment,” the email said.
Earlier, B.C. RCMP Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan said in a letter to hereditary chiefs that the RCMP no longer needed to stay because the road has been consistently kept clear.
Adding to the confusion was a statement from Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who said the hereditary chiefs’ conditions had been met for meeting to discuss the removal of the rail blockades that have hamstrung the shipment of goods from coast to coast.
The chiefs also want Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction and remove its workers, which has not happened.
Nationwide protests and blockades of rail lines followed a move by RCMP to enforce a court injunction earlier this month against the hereditary chiefs and their supporters. The protesters have stated these blockades will remain in place until the RCMP abandon its office on the service road.
The RCMP office has been in place since March 2019 at the 29-km mark along the Morice West Forest Service Road. Police have raided the camps twice during that time, arresting approximately 50 people.
Several hereditary chiefs are visiting Mohawk supporters in Ontario this week and will not be able to attend a meeting with RCMP until early next week.