14 arrested after blockade on CN Rail tracks near New Hazelton: First Nation chief
A Wet'suwet'en supporter is seen in Victoria on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
VANCOUVER -- A First Nation leader says he was among several people arrested Monday night at a blockade outside New Hazelton on territory that neighbours the Wet'suwet'en Nation.
Hereditary Chief Spookwx of the Gitxsan Nation said Tuesday three other hereditary chiefs were also taken into custody as the RCMP broke up the demonstration on a CN Rail line in northern British Columbia.
The RCMP said 14 people were arrested.
A similar blockade was set up by the Gitxsan earlier this month and removed as a show of good faith on Feb. 13, but Spookwx said the protest resumed because the RCMP have not acted quickly enough to leave the Wet'suwet'en's traditional territory where a natural gas pipeline is under construction.
Elsewhere in B.C., anti-pipeline protests blocked an intersection that serves as a key entry point to the port of Vancouver, and a group of protesters remained at the B.C. legislature.
Vancouver police told the demonstrators to move out of the intersection at the port or risk arrest for violating a court injunction, and most of the estimated 70 protesters had moved to the sidewalk.
Commuter rail service was moving again between Vancouver and the Fraser Valley after demonstrators blocked rail tracks late Monday afternoon, saying they were acting in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Following his arrest on Monday night, Spookwx said supporters blocked Highway 16, the main route through the region, until about 3:30 a.m. when all the people arrested were released.
Spookwx, who also goes by Norm Stephens, said First Nations across Canada must act together as sovereignty issues raised by the construction of the pipeline are addressed because “their rights are ultimately at risk here.”
“The First Peoples of Canada should be treated with respect,” he added.
At least two dozen people blocked the tracks west of New Hazelton, the RCMP said in a statement.
One train reportedly nearly hit a male on the tracks, just before CN Rail was made aware of the blockade, the statement said.
The RCMP enforced the injunction at the request of CN Rail and the Mounties said those arrested were released on the condition that they abide by the injunction order and attend an upcoming court date.
Before midnight, police officers noted the tires were slashed on four patrol cars parked across from the highway, which the RCMP is investigating.
“We would like to remind the public that any attempts to block rail tracks is extremely dangerous and unlawful,” Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said in the news release.
“Should they put themselves in harm's way, protesters are not only putting their own lives at risk, they are also putting the lives of train operators, rail employees, responding police officers and members of the public at risk.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2020.