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RCMP arrest five people near natural gas pipeline construction site in northern B.C.

An RCMP truck is shown near Houston, B.C., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. The RCMP say officers arrested five people Wednesday while executing a search warrant at two camps located in the area where a natural gas pipeline is under construction in northwestern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The RCMP say five people have been arrested at two camps in the area where a disputed natural gas pipeline is under construction in northwestern British Columbia.

Police say Mounties responded to a complaint Sunday night from Coastal GasLink security, who reported that a worker had been "swarmed" by a group of people wearing masks.

Police say the group allegedly fired flares and gained access to one of the pipeline company's vehicles when the worker left the area because of the intimidation. 

TC Energy, the owner of the project, says in a statement that its workers deserve a safe environment without fear of dangerous acts.

A statement from the Gidimt'en Checkpoint, whose members oppose the pipeline's construction through Wet'suwet'en territory, saysthe people arrested Wednesday were mostly Indigenous women, including the daughter of a hereditary chief.

Checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo' says "this harassment and intimidation is exactly the kind of violence designed to drive us from our homelands."

The Gidimt'en statement says the police search warrant was issued for theft under $5,000, but it had no clear relation to the village site.

The RCMP say one person was arrested after attempting to prevent officers from executing the warrant, while the others allegedly refused to follow police directions.

Opposition among Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs to the 670-kilometre pipeline sparked rallies and rail blockades across Canada in 2020, while the elected council of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation and others nearby have agreed to the project.

"A majority of these communities have also signed equity option agreements to become owners in the project," the statement from TC Energy says.

The pipeline is now more than 85 per cent complete, it says.

The police operation comes a few weeks after the independent watchdog for the RCMP launched a review of the Community-Industry Response Group, which was formed in 2017 to respond to public protests over resource-based projects in B.C.

The review by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission is focused on police enforcement of injunctions obtained by Coastal GasLink Ltd. and two forest companies against protests in B.C.'s Kootenay region and on Vancouver Island.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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