Officers pictured at the Gidimt’en checkpoint on Jan. 7, 2019. Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach is calling for an independent review of police action following the RCMP’s dismantling of the Gidimt’en checkpoint on Jan. 7, 2019. (Canadian Press photo)

Public safety minister asks RCMP for clarity over Indigenous blockade strategy

The RCMP says The Guardian denied a request for the police force to see the documents

The federal public safety minister’s office says it has spoken to the RCMP over concerns about language reportedly used by the agency in planning how it would deal with First Nations protesters blockading natural gas pipeline construction in northern B.C.

A spokesman for Bill Blair says they are concerned by a report by British media outlet The Guardian allegedly outlining the RCMP’s strategy to remove the blockade.

“We are committed to protecting the constitutional right to peaceful protest and are concerned by the unacceptable words and phrases that The Guardian reported were used,” Blair’s spokesman Scott Bardsley said in an email.

“Our office has raised this matter with the RCMP.”

In late 2018, Wet’suwet’en members set up checkpoints preventing pipeline project workers from accessing a work site for LNG Canada’s $40 billion liquefied natural gas project.

Though TransCanada had said it has signed agreements with all First Nations along the pipeline route, some members of the Wet’suwet’en argued their hereditary chiefs had not agreed and blocked a forest service road leading to the project.

Still, a court injunction allowing the company’s work to continue was granted, and the RCMP were called in to enforce it, dismantling one checkpoint early in January 2019 and arresting 14 people.

Late last week, The Guardian reported it had seen notes from a strategy session suggesting that RCMP commanders instructed officers to use as much violence as they wanted, and that they argued for “lethal overwatch,” a term the newspaper said is used to represent the deployment of snipers.

READ MORE: Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP calling for independent review of RCMP action at Gidimt’en

In a statement on Monday, the RCMP say the force has started a review of all documents relating to its enforcement of the injunction and has not found any that reflect the statements in the newspaper article.

“Whatever the source, the assertions made in the article do not in any respect reflect the spirit and intent of the direction of the RCMP commanders charged with planning and carrying out the court’s direction, nor does it reflect what actually occurred,” says the statement from Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald.

“There are a number of terms used in the article that are not generally used by the RCMP during operational planning and others that may be used, but in our opinion have been taken out of context, both of which are concerning.”

The RCMP says The Guardian denied a request for the police force to see the documents referred to in the newspaper’s report and they can’t verify the validity of the statements.

“Most concerning is the reference to lethal overwatch, which from a RCMP perspective and indeed police forces around the world, relates to an observation position taken by armed police officers, to ensure police and public safety,” says McDonald, who is the acting commanding officer for the RCMP in British Columbia.

“The police officer(s) who occupy the position of lethal overwatch are tasked with observing and protecting the safety of police officers occupied with other duties such as crowd control, barrier removal or arrest and who may not be able to access their police equipment to protect themselves from any harm. This term does not indicate action other than observation with a capability to use lawful force should a threat present itself.”

The Guardian could not immediately be reached for comment on McDonald’s statement.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs demand stop work order against Coastal GasLink

The federal New Democrats say they want a full investigation into the issue by both the RCMP’s civilian review and complaints commission and Blair’s office.

NDP public safety critic Jack Harris sent a letter to Blair on Monday, asking him to intervene over the allegations in the article.

“I ask that you urgently respond to the concerns arising, condemn such actions and ensure Indigenous people and the people of Canada that such actions and tactics have no place and will not be tolerated in Canada’s national police force,” Harris wrote.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

Province asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ in screening for possible coronavirus cases

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

Gold Rush star dons Lucky Lager shirt in latest episode

Brennan Ruault, originally from Invermere, joined the show in the sixth season

Homes fit for royals for sale in North Saanich

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have returned to Greater Victoria

VIDEO: Dashcam records near-miss by bad driver near Sooke

Driver crossed four lanes of traffic and back over again, barely missing three other vehicles

VIDEO: Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Activists want Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs demands to be upheld, observed and respected

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into B.C. newsroom office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Canadian law firm launches class action on behalf of Iran flight victims

Flight 752 was shot down by Iran shortly after take off

Mission Hill cellarman fired after mistakenly dumping $162K of wine down the drain

The former employee filed a grievance with the West Kelowna winery but was unsuccesful

Police suspect foul play in Cowichan Tribes death

Police are looking at foul play in relation to a death on… Continue reading

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

Most Read