RCMP close outpost on Wet'suwet'en territory while continuing patrols

RCMP close outpost on Wet'suwet'en territory while continuing patrols

RCMP in British Columbia moved its officers out of an outpost on Wet'suwet'en territory to a nearby detachment on Friday, but won't stop patrolling the area — a move that partially addresses a demand set by the nation's hereditary chiefs late last week. 

The RCMP's Community Industry Safety Office (CISO) — located 29 kilometres into a service road leading to a Coastal GasLink work site — served as a base for around 20 officers occupying several trailers behind a now-locked gate. 

Officers will now operate out of a detachment in Houston, B.C., a 40-minute drive from the original outpost. 

Dismantling the CISO was one of the conditions outlined by the chiefs before they would agree to further talks focused on ending nationwide blockades protesting the construction of a natural gas pipeline on Wet'suwet'en traditional territory. 

But part of that demand included removing all officers from the area and a call for patrols to cease.

"Moving those officers 20-odd kilometres down the road and at the same time increasing the patrols on our unceded territory is not meeting that demand in the slightest," said Karla Tait, a member of the Unist'ot'en house group and director of clinical services at the Unist'ot'en healing centre. 

"Our chiefs were pretty clear that out means out. We wanted the presence to be completely removed from our territory."

Watch: Trudeau says blockades must come down | Sunday Scrum

No fixed schedule to the patrols: RCMP

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for B.C. RCMP confirmed that a temporary "relocation" of the outpost took place the afternoon of February 21.

"Patrols are continuing in the area and discussions are underway (between the Commanding Officer of the B.C. RCMP and the Hereditary Chiefs) with regards to the future of our presence in that territory moving forward," the statement read.

The spokesperson said there is no "fixed time or schedule" to the patrols, but that officers are travelling into the area to monitor the Morice West Forest Service Road.  

Maggie MacPherson/CBC

Tait said that members have been tracking how many patrols occur each day and noticed an uptick in the numbers in recent days. 

Those monitoring patrols counted eight instances on Friday and nine on Saturday, she said.

"It may appear as being more visible as our officers used to work at the CISO and only travel out during patrols or to respond to incidents," RCMP said in response.

Chiefs to convene Monday

Chief Nam'oks, a spokesperson for the hereditary clan chiefs, said shuttering the office is just a small relief for the Wet'suwet'en.

"It relieves some of the duress that we are currently under," he said. "We can't have a discussion while we are under duress." 

Hereditary chiefs are returning to B.C. over the course of the next two days after visiting Mohawk communities in Tyendinaga, Ont., and Kahnawake, Que. 

Watch: Grateful to Kahnawake people, says Wet'suwet'en hereditary Chief Woos

Chief Nam'oks said he and other chiefs present in the province plan to convene Monday to discuss their next steps.

"There are…conditions that must be met before discussions will start and then we will start discussions with Canada itself," he said, adding that the group may contact RCMP later Monday. 

An RCMP spokesperson said that "out of respect" for the discussions, the police service does not "wish to speak about any of the specifics at this time."