Earlier this week, a rumour circulated on Twitter that RCMP tactical units had arrived in Burns Lake, B.C., a small village near the site of the pipeline standoff at Unist’ot’en that was used as a staging ground before last year’s RCMP raid of the Gidimt’en checkpoint. The photos that accompanied the original tweet showed a large group of white panel vans in a parking lot.
This rumour has driven speculation that a raid is imminent, and so Ricochet decided to follow up, first by visiting Burns Lake and then by going to Houston, another small town on the way to the Unist’ot’en camp.
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The vans and people reported in Burns Lake were, according to locals, contractors working on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink project, the controversial pipeline at the heart of the current conflict.
In Burns Lake and Houston, Ricochet saw no signs of the RCMP. None of the people spoken to reported having seen large numbers of police officers in the area.
This does not mean that RCMP tactical units aren’t prepared to move in on the camps in a repeat of last year’s raid, and they could be deploying in another location, but it does make the timeline on which that might happen less clear. Many observers assumed that if the RCMP had large numbers of officers standing by in Burns Lake, it meant a raid was imminent.
In related news, Molly Wickham, spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Clan, said to Ricochet that the RCMP’s deputy commissioner had told her a raid would not happen before Monday at the earliest.
The RCMP declined to comment on the specifics of conversations between their commanding officer and stakeholders. Janelle Shoihet, a senior media relations officer, provided the following statement to Ricochet.
“The Commanding Officer and the BC RCMP have publicly stated that, at this point, we are not enforcing the BC Supreme Court injunction to allow time for dialogue between the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, Elected Councils, Coastal GasLink and Government. Based on ongoing dialogue with all the stakeholders, the RCMP continues to monitor the situation with the hope of a peaceful and safe resolution to the current breach of the court injunction.”