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B.C. RCMP to move off Wet'suwet'en territory, public safety minister says
VANCOUVER -- RCMP have agreed to move from their position on Wet'suwet'en territory, Canada's public safety and emergency preparedness minister says.
Bill Blair told reporters in Ottawa Thursday he believes those opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline should take away their barricades now that the RCMP has plans to move.
"The RCMP— I think in a very appropriate pursuit of less confrontation and in the goal of peacekeeping—have agreed to continue to serve the area but by locating their people in a nearby town, which is entirely their decision but I think the right one," Blair said.
"We have now met the conditions that were set. We think now the circumstances are such that those barricades should come down and were hopeful that will happen."
Mounties said a letter was sent from the B.C. RCMP's deputy commissioner to the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs on Wednesday, indicating her availability to discuss the future of police presence in the northern community. CTV News has asked the RCMP what the anticipated timeline is for officers to clear the area.
In the meantime, federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett offered to meet with hereditary chiefs in Smithers, B.C. to "address the urgent and longer term issues at hand." Other hereditary chiefs have travelled to Ontario to meet with First Nation communities that have set up blockades in solidarity.
Tensions have been increasing nationwide after the RCMP enforced an injunction against hereditary chiefs and their supporters blocking road access in the northern B.C. community. The hereditary chiefs opposing Coastal GasLink's pipeline project have refused to meet with government officials until the RCMP left their traditional territory.
In 2018, Premier John Horgan announced support for a liquefied natural gas plant in Kitimat. The 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline would transport the natural gas for export.
But the project has highlighted a larger debate on the amount of power hereditary chiefs should hold under Canadian law. While the Indian Act established band councils, hereditary chiefs are part of a traditional form of Indigenous government and Canadian courts have struggled with how to recognize their leadership.
Right now, the Coastal GasLink pipeline has support from 20 elected band councils along the route. However, five Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs have expressed opposition to the project and say they have authority over 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territory that the pipeline would cross.
With files from CTV News' Rachel Aiello and The Canadian Press