RCMP patrol of smokehouse sparks concerns by Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader

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A shed located on Wet’suwet’en territory to cure food by smoking it has caught the attention of RCMP.

On Monday, June 29, members of the Facebook group, Wet’suwet’en Access Point Gidimt’en Territory, posted images of police armed with rifles conducting foot patrols near a smokehouse located at the headwaters of the Wedzin Kwah (Morice River) on June 10 and June 18.

Chief Woos, also known as Frank Alec, said he was disappointed and uneasy with the weapons police carried.

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North District RCMP media relations Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said police are aware that their actions are being monitored and captured on camera.

“The photos being circulated online relate to recent patrols and the check of a newly constructed building which is on the pipeline’s right of way, and is therefore in breach of the B.C .Supreme Court injunction order,” she told Black Press Media on Monday (June 29) in an email.

“We understand that Coastal GasLink has posted a notice on the building advising of this breach.”

Woos said the Gidimt’en camp, located at kilometre 44, is no longer a called a camp but a revitalization of their occupancy showcasing their cultural and traditional ways for their youth, as well as Wet’suwet’en and non-Wet’suwet’en people.

“I don’t know what kind of tactics they are up to but we’re carrying out our traditions. Our traditional stronghold out there is basically what we’re doing.”

Saunderson said officers in the photos are members of the Quick Response Team (QRT), which is a group of RCMP officers from throughout the province, who receive training in both cultural awareness and injunction law, and may be deployed anywhere in B.C. to support operational needs.

“While the C-ISO remains closed at the Morice West Forest Service Road, the officers who are assigned there (QRT) are now working from the Houston Detachment and continue to conduct regular patrols along the forestry road and daily checks of the C-ISO facility,” Saunderson said.

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Gidimt’en Camp media coordinator, Jennifer Wickham, confirmed a letter posted outside of the smokehouse on June 18 by Coastal GasLink workers suggested the smokehouse be removed, which they will not be doing.

Construction on the structure commenced last year, and Woos said they hope to have it completed by mid-August, before fish come up the river.

He said the smokehouse is located in a spot used by their ancestors, and where other nations and clans would gather to trade and exchange their harvest.

“Right now I’m at the age where I’m just going to start teaching the youngsters on what they need to do and what they need to be aware of.”

Despite project support from Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs and multiple First Nations along the 670-kilometre pipeline route, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs remain opposed to the project.

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Saunderson emphasized that the Morice West Forest Service Road remains open to all motorists.

“We continue to check in with the local Indigenous leaders on a weekly basis to discuss any issues or concerns.”

Coastal GasLink communications team lead Suzanne Wilton said authorized and permitted activities across the route are ongoing, including pre-construction survey work south of Houston.

“We cannot speak to the action of the RCMP, who carry out their activities independently of Coastal GasLink,” she stated.

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