The RCMP has dramatically expanded the exclusion zone on Wet’suwet’en territory, as the siege in northwestern B.C. enters its third day.

The decision came last night, after a day of frustration for the police. After arresting four people at the Gidim’ten checkpoint, they attempted to drive out but found the road blocked by vehicles parked across it. Only after the vehicles were towed were they able to pass through.

The RCMP checkpoint, set up at the 27-kilometre mark of the Morice West Forest Service Road last month, has been relocated back at kilometre 4, further restricting movement on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

The police want the Wet’suwet’en camp at kilometre 27 removed.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are meeting with the RCMP about the issue of access to their territory this morning.

Arrests at Gidim’ten checkpoint

SUPPORT OUR REPORTING Jerome Turner is a Gitxsan journalist on site at the Coastal GasLink conflict. Please support his work by becoming a member or making a donation. On desktop, the relevant buttons are at the top of the screen. On mobile, pull down the main menu to find them.

After making six arrests before dawn on Thursday, the first day of the siege, police yesterday continued their advance along the road toward the Unist’ot’ten site, where an unspecified number of land defenders remain. Unist’ot’ten is the main Wet’suwet’en site on the pipeline route and also home to the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre.

Approximately 50 police officers, including heavily armed tactical units, were part of Friday’s operations at Gidim’ten in which four land defenders were arrested. Two of the land defenders were stationed in a bus, while the other two were in a lookout tower.

Ricochet journalist Jerome Turner was on site but his reporting was severely restricted by an RCMP directive that he remain in one spot approximately 60 feet from the arrests.

The lookout tower before arrests, Feb. 7, 2020
Jerome Turner

‘Rule of law’

The RCMP is enforcing a B.C. court injunction to allow Coastal GasLink into the area to complete a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline that would run across the province to a new export facility in Kitimat, B.C.

Premier John Horgan has said the “rule of law applies” in reference to the injunction, but the legal picture surrounding the Coastal GasLink pipeline — which includes the Wet’suwet’en system of governance, a Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing Wet’suwet’en title, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — is more complicated than that.

At the heart of the pipeline controversy is a conflict between a longstanding Indigenous legal system and the newly arrived Canadian one.