RCMP provides update on access control checkpoint on Morice West Forest Service Road
The access control checkpoint was set up late in the morning on January 13, 2020 at the 27 kilometer mark on the Morice West Forest Service Road. As frontline police officers were implementing the new access procedure on the first day, there was some miscommunication that resulted in three individuals being turned away. In one case the person would not provide basic details such as identification and purpose of travel, and in another case, there was a shift in weather conditions as nightfall approached. In the third case, another person transporting food and supplies, was not initially allowed access. Rather than turning the person away, the police officer at the checkpoint made arrangements for the supplies to be transported in by an alternate person. However, both individuals decided not to proceed and left the area.
The procedures have since been clarified and we have not had any reports of further issues and most individuals have been able to proceed. Based on a review by the Operations Commander, RCMP officers appeared to be acting professionally and in good faith. If there are public complaints made, we will ensure full disclosure of all information regarding the interaction including the video captured by police.
The RCMP would like to emphasize that this checkpoint is not an exclusion zone, which are created when police are enforcing a civil injunction. At this point, we are not enforcing the BC Supreme Court injunction to allow time for dialogue between the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, Elected Councils, Coastal GasLink and Government. The access control checkpoint is a measured response that reflects the need to prevent further escalation of the situation including the placement of hazards along the roadway and the creation of a third encampment blocking access. It also allows the RCMP to be accountable for the safety of all persons accessing this area given the hazards, unplowed roads and severe winter conditions.
The RCMP is very mindful of the continued presence of not just the fallen trees on the road, but of the partly cut trees. These trees can fall unexpectedly due to wind and heavy snowfall, which could result in significant injury or death.
The stacks of tires with accelerants also remain. Twice now, police officers removed the containers of accelerants to prevent fires and both times they were replaced. The intent here is concerning and we are continuing our criminal investigation on this matter.
(Click here for original news release on Hazardous blockade of fallen trees on Morice West Forest Service Road in Houston)
Last year, during the enforcement of the court-ordered injunction, the RCMP entered into several missing persons investigations on individuals who were lost or stranded in the area. We also assisted in removing vehicles from snow banks. We would like to prevent these situations from recurring, which is why we are asking for individuals passing through the checkpoint to identify themselves, provide information on where they are headed, and how long they anticipate being there.
Recognising a need to improve communication and to streamline the process, members of the Division Liaison Team (DLT) are now onsite to assist in those situations where there are questions over access. DLT members have local knowledge and positive relationships with many in the Wet’suwet’en community and will help to better facilitate the process.
Based on ongoing dialogue with all the stakeholders, the RCMP continues to monitor the situation with the hope of a peaceful and safe resolution to the current breach of the court injunction.
Superintendent John Brewer
RCMP Community-Industry Response Group
BC RCMP Communication Services