Friday, July 31, 2020

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross seeks out more information on government's plans for future LNG related protests and civil unrest in BC

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross raised a number of questions related to
policing civil disruptions as part of a Thursday committee session

The topic of civil unrest and how the province plans to address any future situations was up for discussion in a Legislature Committee session on Thursday, with Skeena MLA Ellis Ross taking the lead for the opposition Liberal party.

Mr. Ross participated in the afternoon session  of the Committee of Supply on Estimates of the Public Safety And Solicitor General,  with the Skeena MLA seeking some background on the deployment of the RCMP related to the Wet'suwe'ten blockades of earlier this year, as well as to how the province may respond should further civil disruptions take place.

"It's been quite the year, in terms of civil unrest and protest, which actually originated on the LNG Canada pipeline but actually spread all across Canada, in terms of protest. I don't want to get into details of how or who or when. But I do want to get an understanding of future interventions, in terms of blockades on the LNG pipeline, specifically the blockade that was actually cleared out, in terms of Wet'suwet'en. 

 So my question is to the Solicitor General. Is your ministry being kept apprised of the activities there? And is your ministry budgeting and planning for future events where the government may have to go in and help enforce the injunction?"

Towards a reply Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth noted how it has been a challenging year, while noting the arms length approach between the Ministry and the RCMP.

I thank the member for the question. And he's right. It has been a very interesting and challenging year in this regard. I can tell him that we are kept aware of events. When there are protests, we are made aware of that. We are not told about operational decisions. That is up to the police. I do not, as I have said on a number of occasions publicly, direct the RCMP. And when it comes to costs, we don't specifically budget for costs. We are aware that whenever there are events of this nature, there will be costs. We track those costs, and we will continue to do so.

Through the twenty minute exchange Mr. Ross revisited the theme a number of times speaking to  his interest on provincial budgeting towards policing such situations; as well as how concerns over ongoing disruption along the proposed gas pipeline route to Kitimat is making for growing anxiety for those First Nations that have signed onto the LNG Canada agreement.

In terms of future activities, I keep an eye on what's happening up there, because it causes a lot of anxiety for all the First Nations that actually signed on to the LNG Canada agreement in the first place — the 20 First Nations — and because of the anxiety for Kitimat there is in my band. 

So In terms of the activities out there, I'm sure your ministry is kept aware of what's happening out there. 

 I talked to another minister previously about this issue. I actually asked about the smokehouse that was actually built on the right-of-way and whether or not that would be subject to the province intervening again, redeploying the RCMP and covering the costs under the provincial police service agreement. 

The minister actually inferred that it was not actually a blockade, it was not an impediment and there is really no issue with the smokehouse being built where it is. 

Is that the take that the Solicitor General has, as well?

Minister Mike Farnworth faced a range of questions on public
safety and police operations during a committee session on Thursday

The Solicitor General noted for the MLA that enforcement measures are operational matters for the RCMP to decide on.

So, the way it works, Member, is that the court order directed that there be an access made available. The nature of that, or the exact parameters of that, that's decided by the RCMP. 

I do not make a decision on that, nor do I have an opinion on that. That is an operational decision that they make, in terms of regards to the enforcement of that court order.

As his time came to a conclusion in the Thursday session, Mr. Ross recounted some of the frustrations that he has had in getting information and answers to his questions through the Ministerial bureaucracy, making note of vague answers and the play on words that have been used when it comes to providing more background on his concerns.

You can review the full exchange from the Committee session here, as well as to view the proceedings through the Video Archive page from the Legislature,  the contribution from Mr. Ross begins at the start of the session.

For more notes on the work of Mr. Ross at the Legislature see our archive page here.

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