Gitxsan blockade of CN rail lines near New Hazelton in early 2020 erected in support of Wet’suwet’en opposition to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline. File photo

The B.C. RCMP will not respect a ban from the Gitxsan hereditary chiefs which prohibits the police force’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) from entering their traditional territories.

In an email to Black Press Media, Sgt. Kris Clark wrote that while the B.C. RCMP will “do everything possible” to respect the ban, they have obligations and responsibilities to enforce court injunctions and maintain public safety.

The C-IRG unit is “uniquely situated” to do these tasks through specific training and resources, Clark stated.

Gitxsan hereditary chiefs issued a notice earlier this month forbidding C-IRG to be present on their land.

“While we embrace safety measures for our community, the militarized squadron of the RCMP [the C-IRG] funded to the tune of $50M, have been sent to terrorize our people at the barrel of a gun during peaceful protests and blockades,” the notice from the Gitxsan hereditary chiefs read.

Clark wrote that an intervention from C-IRG will only be required when protesters are not peaceful, lawful or safe.

“It is important to understand that enforcement actions by the B.C. RCMP Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) are considered to be a last resort as they are only undertaken once all other avenues to resolve conflict have been exhausted.”

He added that considering the “violent attack” on a Coastal Gas Link site near Houston in February 2022, the need for police intervention was “very clear.”

“While [the Gitxsan hereditary chiefs’] perception of C-IRG must be respected, it is also important to understand that there have been no physical injuries as a result of any enforcement actions to date,” Clark wrote.

Brian Williams, a head Gitxsan hereditary chief and spokesperson, told Black Press Media at the time the chiefs issued the notice of the ban that the Gitxsan people are afraid of C-IRG.

“We’re a peaceful people and we’re not trying to hurt anyone on our lands and the C-IRG, they’re usually in full fatigues, carry lethal weapons and have dogs,” said Williams.

The Gitxsan Huwilp Government, comprising 48 chiefs, recently signed an unprecedented agreement with the RCMP for a community safety plan addressing Gitxsan resource issues.

Williams said the work to develop the plan with the RCMP has been going “very well.”

With files from Michael Bramadat-Willcock

By Kaitlyn Bailey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 20, 2023 at 16:23

This item reprinted with permission from   The Northern View   Prince Rupert, British Columbia
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