The RCMP are challenging a recent report that said its members were prepared to shoot Indigenous activists at a January, 2019, protest in northern B.C., saying it has found no documents or references that support that and other assertions in the report.
The RCMP statement, released Monday, was made in response to an article in the British-based Guardian last week that said Canadian police were prepared to shoot protesters and that RCMP commanders told officers to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” in relation to a roadblock at the site.
The article was in relation to a protest where police enforced a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to clear a blockade that was built to protest the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
The proposed $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline would transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to a new $18-billion export terminal being built in coastal Kitimat, and it has been opposed by some Indigenous and environmental activists.
The report, published Friday, refers to documents it described as notes from a strategy session.
In its initial response Friday, the RCMP said it had asked to see the documents referenced in the Guardian article before it was published, but was denied, and had not had the opportunity to determine “in what context any of the alleged statements may have been made or by whom.”
On Monday, the force went further, saying it had since looked for any references that would back up assertions in the report but to date, hadn’t found any.
“The RCMP has commenced a review of all documents relating to the enforcement of the court-ordered injunction and to date, can find no documents or references, which reflect statements made in the [Guardian] article,” the RCMP statement says.
“Whatever the source, the assertions made in the article do not in any respect reflect the spirit and intent of the direction of the RCMP commanders charged with planning and carrying out the court’s direction, nor does it reflect what actually occurred," the statement added.
The RCMP called the report “unsubstantiated, incomplete and inflammatory” and said it had damaged relationships between police and Indigenous communities.
In a statement, a spokesperson with the Guardian said: "The article in question is a carefully considered and researched piece by Will Parrish and Jaskiran Dhillon. The records seen by the Guardian emerged during court proceedings in British Columbia. We are confident that it is factually correct and stand by the story.
"The Guardian’s independent readers’ editor is satisfied with the accuracy of our interpretation of lethal overwatch.”
On Monday, federal NDP safety critic Jack Harris called on the Canadian government to conduct a “full and independent investigation and inquiry” into police strategies and tactics used at the January protest.
“I trust that you were as disturbed as I was to read that senior members in the chain of command of the RCMP had discussed such extreme violence … in response to a civilian protest,” Mr. Harris said in a Monday letter to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.
"We are committed to protecting the constitutional right to peaceful protest and are concerned by the unacceptable words and phrases that the Guardian reported were used,” Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for the minister said in an e-mail. He added that Mr. Blair’s office has raised the matter with the RCMP.
In a separate request, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, Taylor Bachrach, on Friday asked the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission to conduct an independent review of the RCMP’s planning and actions related to the protest.
Karla Tait, director of programming at the Unist’ot’en healing lodge, near the site of the protest, and a spokeswoman for some of the protesters, on Monday said a federal inquiry would be appropriate, given that the RCMP is funded with public money and has a duty to protect all members of the public, including Indigenous people.