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Gitxsan members arrested for blockading CN tracks near New Hazelton, B.C.

RCMP meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs after blockade arrests
WATCH: RCMP in northern B.C. are meeting with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs to try and ease tensions after 14 people including two chiefs were arrested Monday at a CN Rail blockade west of New Hazelton. Sarah MacDonald reports.

Several people were arrested following a blockade in northern B.C. that disrupted CN rail service on Monday.

RCMP say they were called to assist the CN Police Service after at least two dozen protesters had blocked tracks west of New Hazelton. B.C.

READ MORE: Protests swell across Canada after police clear rail blockade in Tyendinaga

One train reportedly had a near-miss with a man on the tracks, just prior to CN Rail being made aware of the blockade, according to RCMP.

A new wave of blockades spring up in B.C.
A new wave of blockades spring up in B.C.

Hereditary chief Spookwx of the Gitxsan Nation told Global News that about 40 members of his nation had re-occupied the main CN Rail line in the wake of continued RCMP presence in Wet’suwet’en traditional territory and the Mohawk arrests.

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Fourteen people were arrested. Spookwx said three hereditary chiefs, including himself, were among those arrested.

“We knew they would come and make the arrests,” he said.

Protesters block traffic in Vancouver, arrests made at New Hazleton protests
Protesters block traffic in Vancouver, arrests made at New Hazleton protests

“By having them come on to our territory arrest us well, the world can see how Canada looks on their indigenous people, the first peoples of Canada, the first Canadians of Canada. Our rights and title are not extinguished.”

Spookwx referred to the landmark 1997 Delgamuukw decision at the Supreme Court of Canada which affirmed that Indigenous rights and title have not been extinguished.

READ MORE: How a historic B.C. land rights case underscores Wet’suwet’en protests

That decision also said that Indigenous groups need to occupy their land in order to claim title, which Spookwx said his nation was doing. He said arresting Indigenous people for trespassing on their own land does not make sense.

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He said the solution to the crisis is simple: The RCMP needs to leave Wet’suwet’en territory and Coastal GasLink needs to suspend operations. Talks can then happen, he said.

“The underlying problem, the whole issue with the Wet’suwet’en chiefs is Canada is not acknowledging and fully recognizing the rights and title of the hereditary chiefs, he said.

“The rights and title the Wet’suwet’en have in their territory is the same rights and title that we have here.”

A brief history of: The War in the Woods
A brief history of: The War in the Woods

Police say the arrested protesters were taken to the New Hazelton RCMP detachment for processing and released shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday with conditions to abide by an injunction order.

READ MORE: Timeline of Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests and the dispute that sparked them

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A  group of protesters remained in the area throughout the evening and blocked Highway 16. The highway re-opened around 3:30 a.m. after the group cleared the road, RCMP say.

RCMP say they are investigating after four patrol cars parked across from the highway had their tires slashed.

Members of the Gitxsan Nation had set up and taken down a rail blockade earlier this month.

Protests in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have taken place in East Vancouver, Abbotsford, and Victoria.

— With files from The Canadian Press