Good morning. Wendy Cox here in Vancouver.
The standoff over the Coastal GasLink pipeline this past week has been a tense sequel to the events of last year, when 14 people were arrested and the RCMP’s handling of Indigenous protesters was condemned internationally.
In exclusive reporting today, reporter Brent Jang uncovered an affidavit that describes in vivid detail the challenges the police believed they were facing last year.
RCMP had been dispatched to enforce a court injunction ordering the removal of a blockade that prevented workers from getting to the site where a natural gas pipeline is to be constructed. Ultimately, after hours of talks, the protesters and police came to an agreement that permitted the construction workers access, but also allowed protesters to maintain the building they had constructed nearby. Coastal GasLink agreed to ensure the Wet’suwet’en could continue to trap in the backcountry unimpeded.
“I am aware that critical infrastructure can be targeted by persons with radicalized ideology,” Sergeant Jonn Uzelac said in an affidavit signed one day after the confrontation with protesters last year.
After the protesters refused to comply with the court injunction against them, “some pushed the ladders being used by police in an attempt to injure officers,” Sgt. Uzelac said. “Others used accelerants to light tents, personal belongings and a cache of food on fire.”
He added that some of the activists “then used accelerant to ignite several slash piles (rough cut timber and branches), then fell several trees to block police as they fled further up” the forestry road.
Sgt. Uzelac made the statement in an affidavit filed in a B.C. Supreme Court civil case. His affidavit came to light this week after Joseph Choken made his first appearance in provincial court in a criminal case in Houston, B.C.
One year later, the core of the dispute – the opposition by hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en to the pipeline – has never been resolved. The issue broke open once again after a judge renewed the injunction against the protesters on Dec. 31, saying construction of the natural gas pipeline has been harmed by Wet’suwet’en blockades.
The RCMP are once again poised to enforce the injunction, though officers have not yet moved in.
On Monday, RCMP set up a checkpoint to limit access to the logging road, where there are dozens of fallen trees to block Coastal GasLink workers.
The protesters say they have submitted a formal request to the United Nations, asking the international body to monitor the actions of the RCMP and Coastal GasLink. They have castigated the B.C. and federal governments for not following the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), a declaration the federal government has adopted. Last month, the provincial government passed legislation to ensure the principles of the declaration are enacted across government.
This week, B.C. Premier John Horgan reiterated both government’s contention that UNDRIP does not offer Indigenous groups a veto. Jim Carr, the MP tasked by the Prime Minister to address mounting alienation in Canada’s West, told a Calgary group the same.
Asked by energy leaders at a Calgary Chamber of Commerce event what the declaration means for new projects, the former natural resources minister said it was clear. “If we haven’t figured it out yet, we’re not very smart: If we don’t properly and meaningfully consult Indigenous peoples, there won’t be any major projects built,” he said.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
Around the West
POLICE INVESTIGATIONS: The B.C. agency that oversees the conduct of municipal police has ordered an investigation into the detention, handcuffing and arrest of an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter who were trying to open an account at a Vancouver branch of the Bank of Montreal.
CALGARY REAL ESTATE: Calgary home prices have dropped by more than 10 per cent in the five years since Alberta’s economic downturn began, and the market is expected to dip down more in 2020 as slower sales and cautious buying become the “new normal” in Alberta’s largest city.
RENOVICTIONS: An unusual landlord-tenant arrangement has sparked a major dispute, with some tenants saying a property developer is reneging on an agreement to rent to them at below-market rates indefinitely in a new building on the site of their former home.
FENTANYL OVERDOSES: Fewer Albertans died of fentanyl overdoses in the first nine months of 2019 than in previous years. Some suggested causes behind the drop include a decrease in doctor-issued opioid prescriptions and an increased number of supervised drug-consumption sites, and overdose-reversal kits. “It looks like we have a down trend in opioid deaths, and I hope to see the total lower this year compared to 2018. But these numbers are still too high,” said Jason Luan, Alberta’s associate minister of mental health and addiction.
EDUCATION COSTS: School boards in Alberta are coping with a funding freeze by cutting budgets for infrastructure and transportation, and are having to dip into rainy day funds. This is all because the boards expected new money from Jason Kenney’s government to deal with a flood of additional students that shows no sign of abating, according to Alberta’s Opposition New Democrats.
MANITOBA FLU: A Winnipeg teen died of complications from influenza, according to a letter sent to parents on Monday. Manitoba Health said the number of people visiting emergency rooms due to respiratory issues in the last week of 2019 was the highest in three years.
AVALANCHE DEATH: The partner of Laura Kosakoski spoke to The Canadian Press about his efforts to rescue the Canmore-based doctor after an avalanche swallowed her.
JANN ARDEN: The Calgary-born artist is being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. She will celebrate the honour with a live performance at the Juno Awards in Saskatoon on March 15.
Adrienne Tanner on off-leash dog runs in Vancouver: “In recent years, Vancouver’s park board has started to erect dismal chain-link-fenced enclosures for dogs to play off-leash to meet the demand for more dog parks. To me, they more closely resemble dog pounds than parks – some are barely large enough to chuck a ball across. They are, I suppose, better than nothing and might be the only option in high-traffic locations.”
Justine Hunter on funding for rural tech: “For more than a century, the community of Trail in B.C.’s Kootenays has been a mining town. More recently, it has landed the MIDAS Fab Lab, a business incubator for startup companies that is helping diversify the region’s economy through research and development of digital fabrication industries. Since opening a little more than three years ago, the lab has provided skills training for more than 100 workers, supported the development of more than 90 prototypes, created or expanded a dozen businesses and helped generate $3-million in sales. It’s precisely the kind of high-tech initiative the B.C. government says the province needs.”
André Picard on the new face of the $5 bill: “Only one nomination is required. The clear, logical, long-overdue choice: Terrance Stanley Fox. As the 40th anniversary of the iconic Marathon of Hope approaches, there is no better way to honour Terry Fox than to put his face on a five-dollar bill. Canada has the loonie. It has a toonie. Now it needs the Terry.”