VANCOUVER – The RCMP says miscommunication led to three people being turned away at a checkpoint along a logging road leading to a work site for a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia.
Supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink project have set up three camps between the checkpoint and the work site.
The Mounties say in a news release that there was some miscommunication as frontline police were implementing new access procedures after the checkpoint was set up on Monday morning.
Of the three people who were turned away, the RCMP says one would not provide basic details, such as identification and purpose of travel, another faced a shift in weather conditions as nightfall approached and the third person was refused access to transport food and supplies.
The Mounties say the police officer at the checkpoint made arrangements for the supplies to be transported in by a different person, but both individuals decided not to proceed and left the area.
The RCMP says since the procedures have been clarified it has not received any reports of further issues and most individuals have been able to proceed.
“The access control checkpoint is a measured response that reflects the need to prevent further escalation of the situation including the placement of hazards along the roadway and the creation of a third encampment blocking access,” the news release says.
“It also allows the RCMP to be accountable for the safety of all persons accessing this area given the hazards, unplowed roads and severe winter conditions.”
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says in a news release that it is filing legal complaints for two individuals who were bringing food and emergency supplies but were denied access by the RCMP.
The association, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and a law professor at the University of British Columbia were scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday about the complaints.
Harsha Walia, executive director of the civil liberties association, says in the news release she was concerned about the use of exclusion zones prohibiting Wet’suwet’en people, the public and media from accessing the First Nation’s territories.
“This exclusion zone constitutes a serious violation of both the Indigenous rights and Charter-protected rights of Wet’suwet’en people and their family members,” she says.
However, the RCMP say the checkpoint is not an exclusion zone, which are areas created when police enforce a civil injunction. It says it’s not enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to allow time for dialogue between the hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink.
“Based on a review by the operations commander, RCMP officers appeared to be acting professionally and in good faith. If there are public complaints made, we will ensure full disclosure of all information regarding the interaction including the video captured by police.”