Stand With the Wet’suwet’en! Condemn the violence of the colonial Canadian state!

 

Vancouver, February 6, 2020

The sovereign Wet’suwet’en nation and their laws are equal in status politically to Canada and its laws, and this must be acknowledged and respected as the basis of reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples. #Wetsuweten – Four articles.

Early in the morning of February 6, RCMP in tactical gear, and with dogs, guns drawn, and a convoy of over a dozen vehicles, began removing people from Wet’suwet’en traditional territory. The target of the attack was the Gidimt’en Camp at 39KM (the distance from Highway 16) on the Morice River Forest Service Road. RCMP were acting to enforce an injunction that had been granted to Coastal GasLink (CGL) by the BC Supreme Court on December 31, 2019. Every effort was made by the RCMP to prevent any journalists from observing and reporting on what was taking place. The raid began just before 5:00 am, when most people were sleeping. At 6:22 am, the Unist’ot’en Camp reported, “We have lost all communication with the Gidimt’en watch post at 39KM after RCMP smashed the window of the radio vehicle.” The window was smashed in order to arrest the person who had been in the vehicle handling communications. At 7:22 am, the Unist’ot’en Camp reported, “36 vehicles, 1 ambulance and heavy machinery went up from 4 KM. At least 2 bulldozers and excavator.”

February 6, RCMP raid Gidimt’en Camp at 39KM on the Morice River Forest Service Road.

Within hours, more than 50 communities in Canada and internationally, organized to hold actions condemning the RCMP raid and the contemptible behaviour of the governments of Canada and British Columbia in refusing to meet with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. The hereditary chiefs issued an eviction notice on January 4 to CGL, which has invaded Wet’suwet’en land to construct a portion of its pipeline to the LNG Canada plant in Kitimat.

The RCMP raid had been anticipated and the people were prepared and responded to the police and through messages, including videos on social media, reaffirming their right to defend the land and its resources for the Wet’suwet’en people, and their determination to not back down. On the same day, the hereditary chiefs issued a press release announcing that they had “filed an application for a Judicial Review of the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) decision to extend the environmental certificate for Coastal GasLink’s proposed fracked gas pipeline in Northwest BC for another five years.”

Bad faith negotiations set the stage for criminalization of Land Defenders

The police raid came exactly seven days after the hereditary chiefs agreed to a proposed seven-day period of talks with representatives of the BC government, not including the Premier. The talks ended after two days, on February 4, with no resolution to the conflict, which was hardly surprising as the Premier had declared, “I don’t expect the leadership to say tomorrow that they love the pipeline. That’s not my expectation. But there needs to be a legitimate understating that the majority of the people in the region are going to benefit for this, and that’s what dialogue will produce.” The hereditary chiefs participated in good faith while the provincial government, through its representative, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, did not. During the entire seven days the RCMP were massing in Houston, about 300 km northwest of Prince George on Highway 16, preparing for the invasion that the state had planned.

The RCMP website states: “On December 31, 2019, the BC Supreme Court granted the Coastal GasLink interlocutory injunction order against persons who interfere with the Coastal GasLink project” and that, in light of failed talks between the hereditary chiefs and the BC government to come to an agreement, and in light of the fact that the maximum discretionary time stipulated by the injunction had been reached, the RCMP had no choice but to act.

In this manner, the RCMP spreads an outlook which seeks to disorient Canadians about what is happening and its significance. According to its outdated colonial outlook, the RCMP is a neutral party which is merely doing its job by upholding the law whereas many would say it is the violent instrument of the Canadian state, the financial oligarchy and the gas and oil monopolies and their governments, imposing their narrow private interests above the interests of the Indigenous and Canadian peoples. In this way, the Wet’suwet’en are criminalized as persons “who interfere with the Coastal GasLink project” and must be stopped.

It is important to note that besides not having the approval of the hereditary chiefs, who are the traditional political authority within Wet’suwet’en territory, CGL has not yet fully complied with the legal requirements of the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) to address what measures they will take to mitigate the adverse effects of the pipeline, even though the EAO has issued a permit for the pipeline construction to proceed. The assessment report submitted by CGL to the EAO does not even mention the existence of the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, which represents a sacred healing centre for the Unist’ot’en, one of the five clans that make up the Wet’suwet’en Nation. The Unist’ot’en note that their “Healing Centre was built with the assistance of settler supporters working hand in hand with us to fund and construct the infrastructure that allows us to provide self-determined culturally rooted, land-based healing programming by, and for, Indigenous Peoples. It is the fruition of decades of planning and de-colonizing work. This vision of healing through cultural revitalization and reconnection to the land is the foundation of our land use plan, and it depends on healthy, intact land.”

On February 6, the day of the RCMP assault, the hereditary chiefs filed for a judicial review of the EAO’s decision to give the green light to the project.

In response to the violent invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory and the arrests of the land defenders, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks denounced the attack stating: “Our people are peaceful, our supporters are peaceful but they came in with armed forces to remove people that were peaceful [and] doing the right thing, at the right time for the right reasons […] We’re exercising our jurisdiction.”

The excuses given by the Canadian state and the monopoly media to justify pushing the pipeline and targeting the Wet’suwet’en, conveniently covers up that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and people have acted lawfully within their own Anuc’niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law), and international and Canadian laws, which recognize the Wet’suwet’en as the title holders of their territory, and they continue to call for a peaceful solution to the stand-off. It is the Canadian state that has acted illegally to try to suppress the Wet’suwet’en affirmation of their rights in their own territory. What is also not recognized is that the sovereign Wet’suwet’en nation and their laws are equal in status politically to Canada and its laws, and that this must be acknowledged and respected as the basis of reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous peoples. This is what the Indigenous peoples and the Canadian people want and are demanding, to break with Canada’s colonial past.

BC Chief Justice Margaret Church ruled in her decision on January 31 granting the injunction requested by CGL to proceed with the illegal construction of the pipeline, that Wet’suwet’en laws have no legal standing within the Canadian legal system. They are simply not recognized. Meanwhile, working people across the country have no shortage of experience with Canadian law and how it serves the financial oligarchy and their narrow private interests, as in this case of modern day colonialism.

This refusal to acknowledge the authority of Indigenous laws within Indigenous territory is reflected in the statement of the RCMP who have now declared that the “exclusionary zone” is out of bounds and it is their senior commander, not the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who will decide who can enter the “exclusionary zone.” This must not pass!

Molly Wickham, a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en clan, part of the Wet’suwet’en nation, noted of those arrested and later released without conditions: “They’re on their way back, and it’s a testament to the fact that we’re not going anywhere […]

“You can arrest us, you can try to remove us from the territory, you can remove us from the territory violently, and we will always come back.”


Police Suppression of Journalists

As occurred in January 2019 when the RCMP assaulted and removed people from Wet’suwet’en territory, journalists were also harassed, interfered with, threatened and prevented from doing their work. Amber Bracken, a freelance journalist for The Narwhal, a BC-based publication, has been on site since January 12 and is at the Unist’ot’en Camp at 66KM which, as of 5:00 pm February 6, was behind police lines  –  an exclusion zone set up at 27KM  –  and had not been raided. The Narwhal reported that she finds herself in the challenging position of risking arrest simply by documenting unfolding events. The Narwhal quoted Karyn Pugliese, President of the Canadian Association of Journalists, saying that “she confirmed reports that journalists were told by the RCMP not to photograph or film officers in tactical gear carrying assault rifles or arrests  –  or they’d be at risk of arrest themselves. Police also detained journalists in a van and removed them from the site.”



RCMP Violently Remove Wet’suwet’en

– Union of BC Indian Chiefs –

 

In the middle of the night, the RCMP began aggressively raiding Wet’suwet’en traditional and unceded territories. This senseless violence was carried out under the watch of the Provincial and Federal Governments.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) stated, “We are in absolute outrage and a state of painful anguish as we witness the Wet’suwet’en people having their Title and Rights brutally trampled on and their right to self-determination denied. Forcing Indigenous peoples off their own territory is in complete and disgusting violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the Horgan government recently committed to uphold through Bill 41, and which the Trudeau government has also committed to uphold through yet to be introduced legislation. Indigenous rights are human rights and they cannot be ignored or sidestepped for any reason in the world, and certainly not for an economic interest. We call on the RCMP to immediately stand down, and we call on the Crown to immediately take responsibility for ending this violence.”

“Prayers for the Wet’suwet’en leadership and people, we are standing with you and we always will,” stated Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the UBCIC. “We categorically reject the insulting notion that the Crown and RCMP did everything they could to prevent this. There are always options that can be taken by the Crown. It is never an option to have a pipeline go through the territory of the proper Title and Rights holders who have not provided their consent. Premier Horgan, we have to ask, why didn’t you just go meet with the Hereditary Chiefs when you were invited, and stop this from happening? No schedule is too busy to accommodate a meeting that could have had major impacts on preventing the violence we are all now witnessing.”

Chief Don Tom, Vice-President of the UBCIC, concluded “Using armed force to take Indigenous peoples off their unceded and traditional territories against their will is not reconciliation, it is colonialism in all of its ugliness and hypocrisy. We are humbled and inspired by the resolute and unwavering commitment of the Wet’suwet’en people to defend their territories from a resource extraction project that will have dire impacts on their lands and waters and accelerate climate change. I repeat the wise words of Na’Moks, Hereditary Chief of the Wet’suwet’en, who stated ‘we remain peaceful and respectful because we are on the right side of history.’“

Convoy of RCMP and Coastal GasLink vehicles and equipment reach Gidimt’en Access point, February 7, 2020.

UBCIC encourages organizations, advocates, and members of the public to participate in the solidarity actions that are planned. See here for listings. 

(February 6, 2020. Photos: Wet’suwet’en, S. Vinal, UBCIC)


Court Challenge Filed Against Coastal GasLink Pipeline’s Environmental Approval

– Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs –

Hereditary chiefs evict Coastal GasLink from their territory, January 4, 2020.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have filed an application for a Judicial Review of the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) decision to extend the environmental certificate for Coastal GasLink’s proposed fracked gas pipeline in Northwest BC for another five years.

The application challenges the BCEAO decision to extend permits despite over 50 instances of non-compliance by Coastal GasLink and a failure to incorporate the recent findings of the Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The inquiry found direct links between extractive industries, “man camps” and increased violence against Indigenous women.

Wet’suwet’en Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ (Hereditary Chiefs) stand united in pursuing this legal action. Canadian law recognizes Wet’suwet’en traditional governance, as the Supreme Court explicitly stated in the groundbreaking Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa decision and as reaffirmed in the Canfor v. Sam case.

“Coastal GasLink has repeatedly flouted the conditions that were spelled out in their previous certificate, and shown only contempt for our people. My cousins are listed among the Murdered and Missing Women and Girls (MMIWG), BC must not be allowed to bend the rules to facilitate operations that are a threat to the safety of Wet’suwet’en women,” stated Dinï ze’ Smogelgem, one of the Hereditary Chiefs of the Lakshamshu (Fireweed and Owl) Clan.

“This case is about questioning the integrity of the environmental assessment process. In recommending that CGL be granted a project extension of five years, the EAO failed in its legislated duty to properly consider the facts, abdicated its responsibility to interrogate newly identified potential harms of this project, and has made a decision that is unjustified and unjustifiable,” said Caily DiPuma of Woodward and Co., legal counsel for the Wet’suwet’en. “Public confidence in the administration of BC’s environmental assessment system requires that the EAO be held to account for its failings.”

This legal challenge comes at a time when Canadians at large are increasingly concerned about the growing epidemic of violence against Indigenous women. The final report of the National Inquiry into MMIWG urged immediate action to address Canada’s “race-based genocide of Indigenous peoples,” and found that “work camps, or ‘man camps,’ associated with the resource extraction industry are implicated in higher rates of violence against Indigenous women at the camps and in the neighbouring communities.”

The Wet’suwet’en people, under the governance of their hereditary chiefs, have never consented to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. This legal action seeks to overturn the EAO’s decision to extend Coastal GasLink’s certificate due to an established pattern of non-compliance from the project proponent. The Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ continue to resist colonial and gendered violence against Wet’suwet’en people, and to protect Wet’suwet’en lands for future generations.

Comox action in support of Wet’suwet’en, February 3, 2020.

(February 6, 2020. Photos: TML, Wet’suwet’en)

TML Weekly Information Project, February 8, 2020 – No. 3

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