More than a dozen people have been arrested for protecting territory that is blocking access to a new pipeline project in British Columbia.
RCMP say they arrested 14 people from a blockade to a forest service road in northern part of the province that is preventing access to the pipeline project.
Mounties say the arrests took place at the Gitdumt'en checkpoint on Morice West Forest Service Road for various offences, including alleged violations of an injunction order against the blockade.
They allege officers saw a number of fires being lit along the roadway.
Journalists say that the land defenders who were protecting their territory were not armed.
The moment #RCMP tactical & paramilitary officers raid the Gitimt’en camp. The Wet’suwet’en who built this camp say they’ve never ceded or surrendered their land to the Crown & are following their own laws which place duty on them to protect lands for future generations. https://t.co/EaPN0yv7yr— Justin Brake (@berrygrounds) January 8, 2019
For those who can't sleep tonight, my video on the RCMP raid on Gidumt'en territory: https://t.co/8RUula7zgv— Michael Toledano (@M_Tol) January 8, 2019
Members of the Gidimt'en clan of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation had set up a camp and a checkpoint in the area, southwest of Houston, which they said was to control access. They say that the area is their territory, which was never ceded to Canada under any treaty.
In a statement, RCMP say officers spoke with representatives of the camp about the removal of a road block along the roadway, and set up a meeting between hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink.
But police say at about 3 p.m., they realized the matter couldn't be resolved and they took action.
The statement says a temporary exclusion zone has been set up in the area where the police do not allow access to anyone who is not part of the enforcement team.
The RCMP says the zone remains in place and will be consistently re-assessed.
The statement also addressed what police called "erroneous" reports that RCMP jammed communications in the area, and that the military was present during the police enforcement operation.
"We would like to clarify that both of these allegations are incorrect," the statement says. "The area is extremely remote and even police had limited access to communication."
Mounties said earlier Monday they would enforce the interim injunction issued by the B.C. Supreme Court in mid-December. The court ordered the removal of any obstructions interfering with the Coastal GasLink project.
The injunction gave protesters 72 hours to remove obstructions and the police say that had not happened, preventing Coastal Gaslink Pipeline Ltd. from being able to do any work in the area.
The pipeline by TransCanada subsidiary Coastal GasLink would carry natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat.
The company says it has signed agreements with all First Nations along the route for LNG Canada's $40-billion liquefied natural gas project in Kitimat, but demonstrators argue Wet'suwet'en house chiefs, who are hereditary rather than elected, have not given consent.
A news release issued Sunday on behalf of Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs says all five Wet'suwet'en clans, including the Gidimt'en, oppose the construction of oil and gas pipelines in their territory.
"The provincial and federal governments must revoke the permits for this project until the standards of free, prior and informed consent are met," Phillip says in the release.
LNG Canada announced in October that it was moving ahead with its plans for the Kitimat export facility.
Construction on the $6.2-billion pipeline, which is 670 kilometres long, is scheduled to begin this month.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said LNG Canada's decision would help an economically deprived region of the province and bring in an estimated $23 billion in provincial revenue.
Around 2012, the Unist'ot'en camp set up a blockade by constructing a gate and other obstacles to the area, and a second gate was recently constructed at the Morice River Bridge, the company said in a document filed with the court.
TransCanada has said it is not asking for the camp at the bridge to be dismantled, only for access to its pipeline right of way.
Marches were planned across the country on Tuesday to support members of the Gidimt'en clan who oppose the pipeline project.
with files from The Canadian Press