Arrests Escalate Protest Over Trans Mountain Pipeline in Canada

An indigenous-led standoff in Central British Columbia to stop the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline has escalated with the arrests of protesters at a construction site.

Four women were taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police early Saturday after they attempted to interfere with Trans Mountain drilling under the Thompson River to lay pipe, according to the group’s Facebook page. The RCMP confirmed the arrests. Five people were also arrested Thursday for interfering with work on the line, the group said in an emailed release.

Trans Mountain, which began laying pipe in the area late last month, is drilling a crossing under the river where pipe will be placed. A B.C. Supreme Court injunction prevents blocking or obstructing access to Trans Mountain’s sites and work areas, the company said in an email Saturday. “The protest activity occurred at a scheduled shift change and our crews were temporarily impacted from access, but have since continued work,” the company said.

Members of the Secwepemc Nation and supporters have set up a camp along the banks of the Thompson River where Trans Mountain is working to protest the pipeline. The standoff is the latest in a long-simmering conflict between Canada’s indigenous peoples and its leading industries. In February, when members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in B.C. blocked roads to try to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline, they sparked moves across Canada to blockade rail lines, ports and other key economic arteries, hobbling the country’s economy.

The C$12.6 billion ($9.6 billion) expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta’s oil fields to the Vancouver area has faced fierce opposition since it was first proposed more than a decade ago. The Canadian oil industry, which suffers from a lack of export pipelines, defends the project as necessary for Canada’s economy. Construction work began earlier this year.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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