TNRD wants meeting with premier to talk about Tiny House Warriors

TNRD director Stephen Quinn said members of the Indigenous protest group are creating trouble in Blue River. “This group is in town harassing businesses, they’re harassing people, they’re using foul and racist language, which nobody should have to put up with. There appears to be no negotiation with them," Quinn said.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District is requesting a meeting with the premier to discuss a two-year protest by the Tiny House Warriors in Blue River.

TNRD Area B (Thompson Headwaters) director Stephen Quinn said the group has occupied the area since the summer of 2018, at which time it moved from park land in Clearwater and onto Crown land near Blue River.

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Quinn said members of the group are creating trouble in the small, rural community 2.5 hours north of Kamloops on Highway 5.

“This group is in town harassing businesses, they’re harassing people, they’re using foul and racist language, which nobody should have to put up with,” Quinn told KTW. “There appears to be no negotiation with them.”

The group is asserting what it said is “Secwépemc territorial authority and jurisdiction,” protesting the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, which includes a planned camp of 500 workers stationed in Blue River during construction.

Camps have been constructed in Clearwater and Valemount, but the Blue River camp has apparently been delayed until 2021, Quinn said. The group has been involved in numerous conflicts and members were responsible for throwing paint on a building and plaza at Thompson Rivers University in December 2018 during a protest at a pipeline project pre-consultation roundtable at the Campus Activity Centre between former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci and local Indigenous groups.

KTW reached out to the Tiny House warriors for comment, but has not yet heard back.

On Thursday, Quinn requested the regional district send a “strong” letter to Premier John Horgan and arrange for a small delegation to travel to Victoria to meet Horgan.

Quinn told the TNRD board he thought the premier threw the community under the bus with advice that Blue River residents should call police if issues should arise with the protestors. Last year, Quinn asked the board to meet with provincial Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, after which Quinn said he noted increased police presence.

Issues, however, persist. Quinn said Mounties, located about an hour’s drive away in Clearwater, have been called multiple times, but protestors remain due to complexity involved in their occupation of Crown land.

“They’ve [Clearwater RCMP] told us they’ve forwarded charges to Crown counsel,” Quinn said. “Nothing happens. We don’t know what happens.”

KTW has calls in to the Clearwater RCMP.

At the end of June, Blue River residents met with the RCMP and area First Nations to discuss the matter and two Kamloops area- First Nations chiefs since called for the Tiny House Warriors to leave its camp and stop activity on Secwépemc land, saying the actions violate Secwépemc laws and customs.

Tk’emlups te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir called for the Tiny House Warriors to stand down, only to be targeted herself on the group’s social media page.

A letter-writing campaign by residents opposed to the protesters has also begun.

In a letter to the TNRD, released in Thursday’s board meeting agenda, Blue River resident Charmaine Schenstead wrote that “aggressive verbal and non-verbal tactics broadcast on social and print media platforms, the ongoing physical intimidation and vocal harassment of residents, local businesses, regional and international visitors has largely been ignored.”

A rally by residents opposed to the Tiny House Warriors is planned for July 25, dubbed a “rally to reclaim the North Thompson Valley.” A press release sent to KTW about the event states the group of protesters is “no longer welcome.”

“The people who rightfully call the valley home — all people — have had enough of the illegitimate protest and their vulgar and divisive methods. It’s time for them to leave,” the release stated.

Quinn told KTW he fears the situation is escalating and may lead to violence.

In April, Clearwater RCMP launched an investigation after a members of the Tiny House Warriors allege they were subjected to a “violent” attack at their encampment.

Tiny House Warrior group leader Kanahus Manuel, who also goes by the name Amanda Soper, said in a statement issued by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs that she “feared for her life” when four white men allegedly breached a barricade, making their way through the encampment and desecrating a memorial display for murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Manuel, who describes herself as a “land defender,” alleged there was an assault committed and a truck stolen from the encampment was rammed into one of the tiny homes, nearly knocking it off its trailer.

The tiny houses are being constructed by protesters, with the end goal being to place them in the path of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route.

Clearwater RCMP Sgt. Grant Simpson said police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Quinn pointed to Extinction Rebellion protests in Victoria that resulted in arrests and charges and questioned to the board why Interior British Columbia has been left to fend for itself.

“Is there two kinds of law in Canada?” Quinn asked. “One for rural areas and one for urban areas? This really goes to the heart of rule and law and democracy.”

The board supported Quinn’s request to send a letter and delegation to Horgan in Victoria. Interim CAO Randy Diehl told KTW the next steps involve the TNRD submitting a request to meet with the premier.

— with a file from the Clearwater Times

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