RCMP says helicopters can go into Wet’suwet’en territory but cannot bring passengers

But aviation companies are permitted to take away anyone who wants to leave
Jerome Turner
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The RCMP has now told four aviation companies that they can fly into Wet’suwet’en territory under certain conditions — including to take away anyone who wants to leave.

Yesterday Ricochet reported that several local companies said they were contacted by the RCMP and told they could not travel into the area. The RCMP admitted to reaching out to the companies, but denied there were any formal restrictions on air travel to the site of the Coastal GasLink pipeline standoff in northern B.C.

In this remote area, residents depend on helicopters to bring supplies, especially when the main road is inaccessible.

RCMP letter

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs had expressed concerns to the RCMP about not being able to secure helicopter service, in particular for the Unist'ot'en Healing Centre.

The RCMP say they have responded to these concerns by contacting four local helicopter companies verbally and in writing.

In a letter addressed to each company and dated Jan. 24, 2020, the RCMP state that “the following would not be considered a breach of the injunction order”:

  • Flights for medical purposes (to deliver medicine or a nurse or a doctor)
  • Flights to deliver food
  • Flights to deliver survival items or necessities of life
  • Flights to any person requesting removal from the location (including but not limited to a medical evacuation)

It appears that while companies have permission from the police to transport people out of the site, they cannot take people in.

Police checkpoint

Last month the B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction to Coastal GasLink that says the company’s workers cannot be stopped from accessing unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who have not consented to the pipeline, responded by issuing an eviction notice to the company. Two week ago, on Jan. 13, the RCMP set up a checkpoint on the main service road, requiring individuals to present identification and explain their reasons for passing. Journalists and human rights lawyers have been among those turned away by the police.

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