VANCOUVER — Protests and blockades in British Columbia intensified again Monday as an anticipated meeting between federal leaders and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline through their territory has yet to materialize.
Hundreds gathered outside the legislature, while others blocked a road leading to the Port of Vancouver, tracks carrying a Lower Mainland commuter train and a rail line outside New Hazelton — some in defiance of injunctions.
The moves came after police arrested 10 people and dismantled a rail blockade on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in eastern Ontario, stoking tensions in the dispute even as it paved the way for train service to resume.
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The Wet’suwet’en house chiefs set three conditions last week for meeting with federal leaders but a spokesman for the chiefs said Monday they haven’t been met.
The chiefs have called for the removal of an RCMP mobile unit, the end of foot patrols and the removal of Coastal GasLink workers from their traditional territory as conditions for meeting with the federal government.
Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said the chiefs have received no contact from senior RCMP, federal or provincial leaders since Friday.
“We tell them the same message: these three criteria must be met, then let’s discuss moving forward together. I think they’re making it a little bit more complicated than it should be,” he said.
A group of hereditary chiefs who visited Mohawk supporters in Ontario have returned to British Columbia, he said.
And while he previously believed the RCMP was removing its mobile detachment from the First Nation’s territory, he now believes it has simply been shut down because there is a new gate blocking a turnoff towards it.
Dawn Roberts, a spokeswoman for the RCMP, said on Sunday that the mobile unit has been temporarily closed as discussions are underway with the deputy commissioner about its future.
Officers who were stationed at the unit are now conducting patrols of the area from the Houston detachment, about 40 minutes away, Roberts said.
Chief Spookwx of the Gitxsan First Nation said members erected a blockade once again outside of New Hazelton following the enforcement of an injunction on Mohawk territory.
The blockade was temporarily taken down Feb. 13 pending a meeting between the neighbouring Wet’suwet’en chiefs and federal government that hasn’t happened.
“If they hadn’t moved in on the Mohawk people we probably wouldn’t be here,” said Spookwx, who also goes by Norm Stephens.
“Things are progressing and they may still progress to the point where the Wet’suwet’en are happy with what is happening and we can stand down.”
Spookwx said an injunction applies to the area of the Gitxsan blockade, but he says the First Nation never ceded the land and never gave permission for the train tracks to be installed.
Metro Vancouver’s transit authority, TransLink, tweeted Monday afternoon that service on the West Coast Express was suspended due to protesters blocking the tracks.
Some protesters on Monday locked themselves to a gate at the B.C. legislature, which was the scene of widespread protests on Feb. 11 that prompted the province to obtain an injunction when entrances to the building were blocked.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2020.
Amy Smart, The Canadian Press