The RCMP have ended their patrols of the Morice West Forest Service Road after reaching an agreement with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
In a Thursday news release, RCMP spokesperson Dawn Roberts said they are satisfied with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ commitment to keeping the road open to the public during their talks with the provincial and federal governments.
The agreement was reached amid continuing protests and road and rail blockades across the country, including at the B.C. Legislature this week. The protests have been ongoing since early February in opposition to the Coastal GasLink, a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline being built through Wet’suwet’en traditional lands.
Talks are expected to begin later today with the five hereditary chiefs and Canada’s Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart, B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser.
Coastal GasLink said it would pause construction on the pipeline for two days to give the talks the best chance of success.
“We fully support the efforts of all parties and are committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the current issues,” reads a statement on the company’s website.
Members of the Wet’suwet’en Rangers will patrol the road during the talks and report to the RCMP on whether it remains clear of obstructions.
“The RCMP has confirmed that patrols along the Morice West Forest Service Road will cease during the period of discussions with the government representatives,” Roberts said. “The RCMP has agreed not to patrol the road unless there is an emergency call for service, such as a motor vehicle accident with injuries.”
Removing the RCMP presence from the service road was a key condition for the hereditary chiefs to enter talks with the provincial and federal governments over their opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Once those talks begin and the hereditary chiefs are satisfied with the progress, it’s expected they will issue a request for supporters to remove all rail blockades in Canada erected in support of the chiefs.
The RCMP closed its mobile office on the road Feb. 21 and moved its officers to the nearby detachment in Houston, but kept up daily patrols of the service road.