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UPDATE: RCMP confirm 14 arrests made from northern B.C. rail blockade in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

1:30 p.m.

North District RCMP have now confirmed 14 people were arrested last night (Feb. 24) after reports of a blockade along CN rail tracks in northwest B.C.

The detachment initially said seven individuals were taken to the local detachment and eventually released for a future court date, but have corrected their earlier statement.

Officers were called in to help enforce a court-ordered injunction by CN rail to remove Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs' supporters from the tracks west of the village.

Additional information is available in the original version below.

12:05 p.m.

A First Nation leader is claiming 14 people were arrested Monday night (Feb. 24) at a blockade outside New Hazelton on territory that neighbours the Wet'suwet'en Nation. 

However, according to a release this morning, North District RCMP say only seven people were arrested yesterday after they were called to help the CN Police Service when ‘at least two dozen protesters’ had set up a blockade along the tracks west of the northern B.C. village.

Hereditary Chief Spookwx of the Gitxsan Nation said today (Feb. 25) three other hereditary chiefs were also taken into custody as police broke up the demonstration on a CN Rail line.

A similar blockade was set up by the Gitxsan earlier this month and removed as a show of good faith on Feb. 13, but Spookwx says the protest resumed because the RCMP have not acted quickly enough to leave the Wet'suwet'en's traditional territory where a natural gas pipeline is under construction.

Following his arrest on Monday night, Spookwx says supporters blocked Highway 16, the main route through the region, until about 3:30 a.m. when all 14 people who had been arrested were released by the Mounties.

Spookwx, who also goes by Norm Stephens, says First Nations across Canada must act together as sovereignty issues raised by the construction of the pipeline are addressed because "their rights are ultimately at risk here."

"The First Peoples of Canada should be treated with respect," he added.

North District RCMP add one train reportedly had a near-miss collision with a man before the blockade was brought to CN’s attention.

The regional service goes on to say officers were sent at the request of CN Rail to enforce its court-ordered injunction, the seven people were brought to the New Hazelton detachment for processing and were released shortly after 3 a.m. today, set to appear in court at a future date.

Roughly 30 minutes later, the Highway 16 blockade ended to re-open the road with police also claiming four of their patrol vehicles parked nearby had slashed tires.

“The RCMP is investigating this criminal action and will take steps to ensure that those who damage property or threaten the safety of anyone may be held accountable in a court of law,” the release reads.

“We would like to remind the public that any attempts to block rail tracks is extremely dangerous and unlawful. Should they put themselves in harm’s way, protesters are not only putting their own lives at risk, they are also putting the lives of train operators, rail employees, responding police officers and members of the public at risk.”

Elsewhere in the province, anti-pipeline protests blocked an intersection that serves as a key entry point to the port of Vancouver, and a group of protesters remained at the B.C. legislature.

Commuter rail service was moving again between Vancouver and the Fraser Valley after demonstrators blocked rail tracks late Monday afternoon, saying they were acting in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

- with files from The Canadian Press



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