An RCMP squad charged with policing resistance to resource extraction in British Columbia spent nearly $50 million enforcing injunctions obtained by the petroleum and forestry sectors in its first five years, an internal accounting shows.
The figures, released to CBC News under access-to-information law, offer the first publicly available, if rough, estimate of the costs incurred by Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG).
Formed in 2017, the C-IRG has no defined territorial jurisdiction, an unknown number of members, and no set budget. It goes where industry meets land occupations, blockades and civil disobedience.
The unit says it needs this flexible mandate to respond to unpredictable protests, but critics fear the C-IRG received a blank cheque and little oversight from governments.
"The human rights, the Indigenous rights of this country are being weakened day by day by allowing that money to be spent on such units as C-IRG, which did not exist more than a few years ago," said Na'moks (John Ridsdale), a hereditary chief of the Wet'suwet'en Nation.
"Canada should hold them accountable. B.C. should hold them accountable. The world should hold them accountable. Somebody should be held accountable and take responsibility for the damage that is being done."
Na'moks said the public deserves to know how much cash the unit spends. He said hereditary chiefs were threatened with arrest, subjected to intrusive vehicle checks and refused access to their territories near Coastal GasLink pipeline build sites as work intensified in recent months.
The Mounties racked up the costs on C-IRG-led operations for that project and two others: the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and old-growth logging at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island.
The force spent a combined $49.9 million on these hotspots between April 1, 2017 and July 31, 2022.