POLITICS
01/09/2019 13:08 EST | Updated 01/10/2019 12:50 EST

Trudeau Says RCMP Mass Anti-Pipeline Arrests 'Not An Ideal Situation'

14 people were arrested Monday after blocking access to a B.C. pipeline project.

Lars Hagberg/CP
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a Liberal fundraising event at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ont. on Dec.19, 2018.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Wednesday that the arrest of 14 people at an anti-pipeline checkpoint in northern B.C. is "not an ideal situation" to be in.

Trudeau made the comment during an interview on CBC Radio's "Daybreak Kamloops" — a day after protesters across the country rallied in support of a Wet'suwet'en First Nation blockade along the route of Coastal GasLink's planned natural-gas pipeline.

Watch: Protests erupt across Canada in support of anti-pipeline blockade

A hundred years ago, he explained, governments of the day would have skipped consultations altogether and build major projects wherever they pleased.

"That's not how we do things anymore and that's now how we should do things," Trudeau said.

Fourteen people were arrested Monday at the Gidimt'en camp checkpoint along a remote road southwest of Houston, B.C., pinching off construction crews' access to the area.

The camp was set up late last year after the B.C. Supreme Court granted a temporary injunction in December to clear the Unist'ot'en camp, which has been in place since 2010 to reassert Aboriginal title to oppose pipeline development.

RCMP moved into the area to enforce the court injunction. Protesters were arrested for allegedly violating its terms. One elder was among those arrested, and eventually released.

Trudeau told "Daybreak Kamloops" host Shelley Joyce that he has no plans to visit the area, suggesting his appearance could inflame tensions.

"One of the things that is really important is to try to reduce the temperature a little bit and sometimes engaging in that way is actually raising the political attention and the stakes."

Coastal GasLink president says camp activities can continue

The prime minister avoided discussion of the anti-pipeline blockade and arrests Tuesday at a forum between government and Indigenous leaders from self-governing First Nations to discuss progress on modern treaties.

His remarks were delayed after protesters rallying in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en's anti-pipeline blockade occupied the government building in Ottawa where the event was scheduled to held. Venues were switched last minute to another government building near Parliament Hill.

While those arrested at Gidimt'en camp were scheduled to appear in a Prince George courtroom Tuesday, Coastal GasLink President Rick Gateman issued a statement acknowledging their right to "peacefully" express their views.

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Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada PipeLines Ltd., has touted 100 per cent support from elected First Nations bands along the pipeline route leading to Kitimat. Hereditary chiefs from five Wet'suwet'en clans are leading the opposition against the project.

Despite the RCMP being brought in to enforce the injunction, Gateman said the Gidimt'en camp site can continue with its activities.

"Our pipeline right of way isn't near the camp, and does not overlap or directly affect it," he said.

The prime minister is in B.C. to appear at Liberal fundraising event in Kamloops and to host a public town hall in the city Wednesday evening.

He is scheduled to meet with First Nations chiefs in between events.

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