Chief Gisday’wa with the remains of a structure alongside the Morice Forest Service Road burned in an arson fire overnight from Aug. 14 to Aug. 15. Two suspects have now been identified. (Gidimt’en Clan photo)

RCMP eye two suspects in alleged arson targeting Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief’s cabin

Structure, material destroyed in fire from the weekend, Gidimt’en Clan calls it a ‘hate crime’

Two men have been identified as suspects in a weekend fire that destroyed a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief’s cabin on Morice Forest Service Road.

Houston RCMP said the the suspected arson happened overnight between Friday (Aug. 14) and Saturday. According to a Gidimt’en spokesperson, the cabin belonged to Chief Gisday’wa (Fred Tom) and had served as part of a cultural meeting place.

The fire was still burning when Gisday’wa, of the Gidimt’en Clan, arrived at the site after 9 a.m. that morning. In a statement, he called the arson an “absolutely racist” act, and the Gidimt’en called it a “hate crime.”

The Gidimt’en Checkpoint is located outside of Houston, B.C., and is along the route that Coastal GasLink workers take to work on the controversial natural gas pipeline, which sparked nationwide rail blockades in support of Wet’suwet’en opposing the pipeline last year. The destroyed cabin figured prominently as a checkpoint of the Gidimt’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en during protests connected to pipeline construction earlier this year.

Mounties, who maintain a presence in the area as a result of tensions between the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink, there was also evidence of a stolen vehicle on the scene. The two suspects are 19-year-old and 24-year-old men from Burns Lake who work in the Houston area.

“This is a priority for the detachment and could have ended tragically had there been anyone in the building,” said Sgt. Mark Smaill.

“The area appeared to have been unoccupied at the time of the fire and no one was located at the scene. The Forensic Identification Section was also called to the scene to process any evidence gathered in the area,” said RCMP Corporal Madonna Saunderson.

The investigation continues and information will be provided to the B.C. Prosecution Service regarding potential charges, Saunderson added.

READ MORE: Complaints of checkpoint ‘debris’ spark controversy

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