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30 Mar 2023

Matt Simmons, The Narwhal (Canada)

Canada: Five land defenders arrested after Coastal GasLink security worker complaint

"RCMP arrest five land defenders on Wet’suwet’en territory as Coastal GasLink construction continues," 30 March 2023

[...] That morning, land defenders at the camp watched as a convoy of RCMP vehicles pulled up outside the fenced-off area, according to community members. More than a dozen officers filed through the gates and said they were there to conduct a search, under a warrant issued by the B.C. courts, land defenders told The Narwhal.

[...] Among those arrested and taken to the Houston, B.C., RCMP detachment was Jocey Alec, daughter of Dinï ze’ (Hereditary Chief) Woos. Several hours later, after being released, she showed The Narwhal her wrists, marked and bruised from the zip tie handcuffs. She said the arresting officer initially put them on too tight, making her hands go numb. Another land defender said they were punched in the head while on the ground, and showed a bruise on their right temple.

[...] According to an RCMP statement, four individuals were arrested for refusing to cooperate with police direction and one for attempting to prevent officers from executing the warrant.

[...] The area, about 50 kilometres south of Houston, B.C., has been the site of numerous clashes between Wet’suwet’en land defenders, police and industry workers building the Coastal GasLink pipeline

The pipeline is being built to connect shale gas sources in the province’s northeast with two liquefaction and export facilities in Kitimat — LNG Canada and Cedar LNG. It crosses about 190 kilometres of Wet’suwet’en territory. Five of six elected band councils signed agreements with the company and the province in support of the project but the hereditary leadership remains opposed. RCMP have made nearly 100 arrests over the past four years, during conflicts related to the pipeline project.

According to the RCMP statement published following the March 29 arrests, the search was related to an incident that had happened a few days earlier, in which local police received a complaint from a Coastal GasLink security worker. The worker alleged a group of individuals wearing masks and camouflage “fired flares and gained access to the work vehicle when the worker left the area because of the intimidation” at just before midnight on March 26. The police statement added, “these persons allegedly poured liquid onto the vehicle and stole a chainsaw from the truck bed.”

TC Energy, the pipeline operator, declined an interview request and referred The Narwhal to the RCMP for more information.