The B.C. RCMP has issued a statement clarifying the status of its officers at a contentious mobile detachment in traditional Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.
Mounties say “planning has been set in motion to transition operations” from the Community-Industry Safety Office (C-ISO) at the 29-kilometre mark of the remote Morice West Forest Service Road.
On Thursday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said police had offered to move away from the barricaded area near Houston, B.C.
“We have met the condition that those who are on the barricades had said was important to them before they would change their posture, and that work has been done, and I think quite appropriately,” said Blair.
That was interpreted by Hereditary Chief Na’moks as the suggestion that police had already pulled out of the area, leading him to accuse the federal government of bad faith.
RCMP confirmed Friday that the B.C. RCMP’s commanding officer had sent a letter to the hereditary chiefs offering to move officers from the C-ISO to the Houston detachment, so long as the road remained safe and open to all users, including Coastal GasLink pipeline crews.
Officers remain in the area, but are preparing to move, the force said.
“The RCMP recognizes the importance for this crisis to be de-escalated both across the country and in the Wet’suwet’en traditional territory. Therefore, the RCMP will alter the operational posture as proposed to the Hereditary Chiefs,” said B.C. RCMP spokesperson Dawn Roberts in the statement.
“The RCMP welcomes the opportunity to work towards a community driven solution that will advance issues of mutual interest, such as the future of police service delivery to the area.”
Police added that they wanted to meet with hereditary chiefs “as soon as possible” to address the issues.
That may prove difficult. On Thursday, Chief Na’moks told Global News he had no interest in meeting with the RCMP, and would not send a letter to police confirming that pipeline opponents would keep the road clear.
While Na’moks said earlier in the week the removal of the RCMP was necessary before there could be any talks with federal officials, he now says all Coastal GasLink workers must also get out of Wet’suwet’en territory.
According to police, the mobile detachment on the Morice West Forest Service Road initially set up in March 2019 to allow Coastal GasLink workers to carry on with the construction of the pipeline the hereditary chiefs oppose.