Canada’s federal police force (RCMP) has moved in to clear an Indigenous camp in an area of northern British Columbia (BC) slated for pipeline construction, Indigenous land defenders said, a move that has been condemned by rights groups.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs told reporters on Wednesday that police intended to enforce a court injunction ordering the Morice West Forest Service Road cleared to allow for construction on the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have set up camps and checkpoints along the forestry road near the town of Houston, BC, over 1,000km (621 miles) northwest of Vancouver, to try to stop the pipeline from being built on their traditional territories.
Wet’suwet’en leaders say they never consented to the 670km (416-mile) pipeline, which will cut across vast swaths of their land as it transports natural gas from northeast BC to a terminal near the town of Kitimat, where it will be prepared for export overseas.
Another encampment set up to reclaim traditional Wet’suwet’en lands in the area, the Unist’ot’en Camp, said six people were arrested in the RCMP raid on Thursday morning.
“Dogs were used, media was banned from filming arrests. Militarised police with night vision and automatic weapons raided the camp in the dead of night,” the group said on its website.
“Our understanding is these tents at 39KM were NOT blocking the road and are NOT in violation of the injunction area,” the group tweeted earlier in the day.
The RCMP did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment via email and phone.
In a statement after the early-morning actions, the RCMP said it was enforcing the court’s injunction.
It did not comment on the reported arrests, but it said police would enforce a “full exclusion zone” at a checkpoint it set up on the forestry road in mid-January.