Bill Blair Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair arrives to a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the Mounties have left an outpost on the road to a disputed natural-gas pipeline project in B.C. but he appears to dismiss the notion that police will move completely out of the vast Wet’suwet’en territory.

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation at the heart of countrywide rail and road disruptions have said they will not meet with federal and provincial officials to discuss their opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline until the RCMP leave their traditional territory entirely and the pipeline company ceases work in the area.

Blair said this morning the RCMP, which is under contract to police provincially in B.C., has removed its officers from an access road to a work site for the pipeline and stationed them in the nearby town of Houston, about 300 kilometres west of Prince George, B.C.

But when it comes to the hereditary chiefs’ demand that the RCMP leave the 22,000 square kilometres of the Wet’suwet’en traditional territory — an area about twice the size of Cape Breton Island and a little smaller than Lake Erie — Blair said the people who live there have a right to be protected by police.

“I think there’s a very important principle: there are thousands of Canadians that live in that area are entitled to policing services,” Blair said.

“They are entitled, as every Canadian is, to be served and protected by a police service, and that’s what takes place in all parts of Canada including in British Columbia.”

Blair said he is optimistic about dialogue between the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and provincial officials and that there is hope of resolving the issues still in dispute.

Nevertheless, he said officials remain “very anxious” for the barricades to come down.

Separately, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have been meeting with one another in B.C. over the last two days after some of them travelled to Ontario and Quebec to meet Mohawk supporters last week.

Bennett said she is hoping to hear back from the chiefs today on whether they will invite her and her B.C. counterpart to discuss the protests and rail blockades.

One of the hereditary chiefs, Na’moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said today he believes progress is being made on the conditions the chiefs made for meeting with federal and provincial leaders.

He confirmed former New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen has resumed his role as mediator and liaison in the tense discussions and a meeting could happen as early as tomorrow.

He said the chiefs want the RCMP mobile detachment on the access road removed from their territory and they also want the Mounties to stop foot patrols.

Cullen has informed the chiefs that the RCMP is willing to dismantle the mobile unit but can’t meet the chiefs’ deadline of tomorrow, Na’moks said.

He added that the chiefs have agreed that as long as the foot patrols stop and the unit is shuttered, they have accepted that as meeting their terms for now.

He said the chiefs have also heard a commitment that pipeline workers will leave the territory and they plan to visit the remote area where work is occurring to verify that the terms have been met.

“In our view things are moving forward because we think the message has been clearly put to the provinces and the federal government that the relationship with Indigenous people and both levels of government has to change,” he said.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLinkPipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP not seeing ‘significant loss’ in ranks because of COVID-19

Surrey Mounties say they have a good tracking system to keep tabs on police officers experiencing an illness

Supreme Court upholds White Rock council decision on Lady Alexandra development

Planned 12-storey highrise on lower Johnston Road was stalled in 2018

‘Potentially life-threatening’ injuries in South Surrey crash

152 Street closed in both directions between Colebrook Road and 40 Avenue

No final high school game for Surrey all-stars; six scholarship winners named

COVID-19 forces cancellation of all-star games for boys and girls at Enver Creek gym April 3

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

UPDATE: 6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes B.C. Interior

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout the Okanagan

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

BC heart surgery patient rarely leaves home

James Jepson is especially vulnerable to the novel coronavirus

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Two arrested after man lies about COVID-19 illness to stay in Victoria Airbnb for free

Victoria Police found stolen goods inside the occupied unit

Most Read