Police arrest 33 protesters opposing gas pipe, Vancouver port closure ends

TORONTO, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Police have arrested 33 people on Monday, ending the closure of Vancouver ports in British Columbia province by indigenous protesters opposing the construction of Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The arrests resulted from an injunction granted by a British Columbia court on Sunday to restore access to ports in the city. Port Metro Vancouver is one of Canada’s biggest ports and police say protesters received several requests and warnings to clear the area prior to the arrests.

The C$6.6 billion ($4.97 billion) pipeline, to be operated by TC Energy Corp, is set to move natural gas from northeast British Columbia to the Pacific coast, where the Royal Dutch Shell-led LNG Canada export facility is under construction. In December, private equity firm KKR & Co Inc and Alberta Investment Management Corp agreed to buy a 65% stake in Coastal GasLink Pipeline.

Protests have been ongoing since Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed an agreement to build the Coastal GasLink pipeline, saying they hold authority over traditional lands, not the elected indigenous band councils the provincial government had consulted.

Some 28% of the 670-km (420-mile) route passes through Wet’suwet’en lands. Construction has continued along other parts of the pipeline route.

“I’ve been encouraged to see the law enforcement professionals dealing with this in an appropriate manner and we’ll continue to advocate for a lawful approach to dealing with issues of disagreement,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters in Calgary on Monday.

“I think that’s the way the current Coastal Gaslink project is moving forward and we’ll just address problems and challenges as we see them,” he added.

Last week, Canadian police arrested at least six people in a remote British Columbia where indigenous protesters had blocked construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Several protesters supporting the First Nations against the natural gas pipeline have caused blockades on rail tracks since Thursday forcing train cancellations in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. (Additional reporting David Ljunggren in Ottawa Reporting by Denise Paglinawan Editing by Marguerita Choy)