BC Green Leader Crosses RCMP Checkpoint, Visits Wet’suwet’en Camps

Adam Olsen urges new approach to pipeline conflict, while Premier John Horgan visits LNG plant site.

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Green interim leader Adam Olsen passed through the RCMP checkpoint and met with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Dsta’hyl. Photo by Dan Mesec.

It’s a blustery Saturday in northern B.C. and Green party interim leader Adam Olsen has just stepped off a plane in Smithers.

He is heading to the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and a meeting with the hereditary chiefs fighting the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their traditional territory.

Hereditary Chief Na’Moks shows Olsen around the boardroom and explains a map of clan and house group territories. He points out photos of hereditary chiefs who paved the way for the nation’s land claims, and photos of Wet’suwet’en children. They remind the chiefs of their responsibility, Na’Moks said.

“Long-term planning,” said Olsen, the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands who took over as interim party leader when Andrew Weaver stepped down in December.

Dominating the room is a table more than six metres long. It’s from the Smithers courtroom where the landmark Delgamuukw case was launched by the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en in Smithers more than 30 years ago. The case, ultimately decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997, was critical in establishing Indigenous rights to traditional territories.

Sitting at that table, Olsen said he doesn’t have any simple answers to resolve the pipeline conflict. He stressed the importance of starting a conversation.

“It really starts with humility and listening and spending time and building relationships and having those conversations. I’ve been honoured to have the invite to come up and do it,” Olsen said. “That invitation means something to me.”

Na’Moks welcomed Olsen’s visit.

“We’re actually quite honoured to have Mr. Olsen here, as the leader of the Green Party of British Columbia,” Na’Moks said. “Previously, we’ve had other leaders in here that would not stand behind their words when they talk to us. We expect better. I know we deserve better.”

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Green interim leader Adam Olsen presents Hereditary Chief Na’Moks and the Wet’suwet’en people with a drum from the Tsartlip First Nation. Photo by Dan Mesec.B.C. Premier John Horgan was also in the region on the weekend, with stops in Kitimat, Terrace, Fraser Lake, Vanderhoof, Quesnel and Prince George.

Horgan’s tour included a visit to the LNG Canada site in Kitimat that will use gas from the pipeline, but not a meeting with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who requested a meeting with him.

Tensions have been rising in the region since Dec. 31, when the B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink a permanent injunction allowing the company access to the pipeline route. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs responded by evicting CGL from the area on Jan. 4 and closing the Morice forestry road, which leads to the pipeline construction site.

On Jan. 13, the RCMP created a checkpoint on the Morice road and limited access to the area.

The same day, Horgan told media the provincial government would not respond to the Wet’suwet’en requests for a meeting.

“This project is proceeding, and the rule of law needs to prevail in B.C.,” he said.

Olsen said Horgan’s position is troubling, especially as in November the legislature unanimously passed Bill 41, which commits the government to accept the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. That includes recognition of the right to participate in any decision-making through their own procedures and law.

“It’s problematic when you refer to the rule of law and Indigenous law is excluded from that,” Olsen said. “I think it’s pretty clear that the Canadian court system has recognized Indigenous law as part of the broader legal context in this country and in this province. We’re sitting in territory where the court decisions reference and explain the very, very sophisticated order that this territory has been governed by since time immemorial.”

“It’s more complex than… I think a lot of people on many sides of this discussion would like it to be,” he said. “There’s this idea that the more simple we can make it, the easier it is that we’re going to find a resolution. And the reality is, the more simple we make it, the less likely it is that we find a resolution.”

“I am here because I believe that we absolutely can find — all of us, all British Columbians, all Canadians — can find peaceful resolutions when we sit down at the table together, get to know everyone, build off the foundation with mutual respect,” Olsen said.

“When you look at this table, this is a grand table. This table represents a very, very sacred representation of what’s been happening in this part of the country for a long time.”

Olsen said his trip is consistent with the BC Greens’ approach to Indigenous concerns.

Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip First Nation, noted the party’s 2017 platform included a commitment to “respecting court decisions, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and to the resolution of Aboriginal Rights and Title issues.”

After the meeting Olsen travelled to the Morice forestry road, an hour’s drive from Smithers. He stopped at kilometre 27, where about a dozen Wet’suwet’en supporters have hastily erected a new camp to provide shelter to visitors just before the RCMP checkpoint controlling access to the pipeline route.

Olsen then passed through the checkpoint and travelled to a Wet’suwet’en camp farther along the road. He’s greeted by a crackling fire, a group of Wet’suwet’en supporters and Hereditary Chief Dsta’hyl of the Likhts’amisyu clan.

Dsta’hyl and Olsen exchange thoughts on resource management.

“I appreciate your words,” Dsta’hyl tells Olsen. “Our elders, they used to say, we should not be raping the Earth, we should be nurturing the Earth. We’ve been telling the government that for years and they don’t hear us.”steward

Olsen met with RCMP at the Smithers detachment Sunday and requested a peaceful resolution to the conflict. He said that officers are “put in an unfortunate situation” of enforcing a complex issue.

He was joined by federal Green Party MP Paul Manly, who arrived in Smithers Sunday and leaves today. SOURCE

RELATED:

UNDRIP Act Gives Horgan an Option in Wet’suwet’en Standoff. He Should Use It

The Colonizer Always Comes Out

Extractive industries and governments have gotten smarter about how they talk about Indigenous rights—but the bottom line stays the same.

Martin Ouellet-Diotte/AFP/Getty Images

A soft piano tune twinkles in the background. The words “Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project” appear and then fade to white. Edward, a member of the Gitdumden clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and a construction monitor for the project, introduces himself as the scene cuts to a series of picturesque shots of snow-topped trees. Speaking to the middle distance off camera, Edward talks about the preservation efforts of the pipeline project and his ancestors’ desire “to build a better life for themselves and their family.” Speaking of his CGL co-workers, he says, “Well, I guess they are my family.” Cue a final shot reading “Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project.” This is the face of the pipeline that TC Energy and its investors want the public to see.

Coastal GasLink@CoastalGasLink

Meet Edward, a member of the Clan. He’s one of many proud people working on the project. Let’s listen to his perspective.

SEE THE VIDEO

The TC Energy-backed Coastal GasLink Pipeline is a 416-mile project designed to carry natural gas through northern Canada and on out to Kitimat, on the western coast of British Columbia. There, at the heavily subsidized LNG Canada plant, the gas will be refined and shipped overseas to customers in Asia. The project, which snakes across the province like a cobra with its head raised to strike, also cuts through the unceded traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

On TC Energy’s website for the project, the company, in bold font, boasts the claim, “more than one-third of all field work conducted by Indigenous Peoples,” adding, “we listen to and value Indigenous voices and their connection with the land.” As noted in nearly every other article on the pipeline, CGL has the approval of both the Canadian federal government and B.C.’s provincial government. It also has the backing of 20 elected First Nations councils, including the Wet’suwet’en’s elected band councillors, a body of local politicians with authority over the municipal functions of their villages. It is, by all appearances, the ideal scenario: a pipeline developed in partnership with the Indigenous stewards of the land.

Except that beyond the soft focus ads and hollow pledges about partnership, there remainsthe violence of the project—a violation of the land itselfand the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the matrilineal leadership of the First Nation, who have not given their consent to the project.

At its heart, this is the story of another pipeline devouring culturally significant and sacred Indigenous lands. But it is also a story of the ways that extractive industries and seemingly liberal governments are evolving in response to highly visible land disputes with Indigenous communities and growing public alarm over a looming climate disaster. TC Energy and multiple layers of government are trying, often successfully, to take advantage of distressed First Nations economies, a slanted legal system, and a biased media atmosphere to present themselves as reformed—environmentally conscious, broadly respectful of Indigenous sovereignty—while they quietly and violently seek to demolish Wet’suwet’en resistance to the pipeline.
Earlier this month, the hereditary chiefs—seven citizens who represent the five clans and, under Wet’suwet’en law, have the ultimate say over what happens in the traditional territory—evicted all CGL workers on their land. Later that same week, the Wet’suwet’en leaders allowed CGL workers to return to the land in order to winterize their equipment, in what Hereditary Chief Na’Moks of the Tsayu clan told The New Republic was meant to be a “sign of good faith.” For a brief moment, it seemed like a rare victory might be in store for First Nations leadership fighting to protect its ancestral homelands.

 

Horgan’s Pipeline Push Betrays His Reconciliation Promise

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‘Is this a scorecard of how many First Nations say yes compared to those who say no? Is that how we measure rights and title?’ Photo by Michael Toledano.

It’s the same old story Indigenous Peoples have heard for generations.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tells the public “the rule of law” demands the Coastal GasLink pipeline go ahead. Permits are in place, and the courts have approved construction.

The opposition of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs is not important to Horgan, as he points to 20 First Nations that have signed agreements to allow the pipeline and negotiated benefits. The five clans who have not agreed don’t seem to count.

Is this a scorecard of how many First Nations say yes compared to those who say no? Is that how we measure rights and title?

Are we not in a new era of reconciliation? A new decade? The decade of the enactment of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Act in this province?

What would I expect from the premier in this new era, in this particular situation when he needs credibility with First Nations if his commitment to UNDRIP is to be taken seriously?

I would expect the premier to look back on past decisions and ensure they were made in the spirit of UNDRIP — including approval of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. His party was making political promises to uphold UNDRIP long before the NDP were in government.

In the 2014 Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in decision, the justices stated clearly that provincial and federal governments need to be prepared to cancel already approved projects if First Nations establish title to the land and oppose them.

“Once title is established, it may be necessary for the Crown to reassess prior conduct in light of the new reality in order to faithfully discharge its fiduciary duty to the title-holding group going forward,” the judgment says. “For example, if the Crown begins a project without consent prior to Aboriginal title being established, it may be required to cancel the project upon establishment of the title if continuation of the project would be unjustifiably infringing.” (Emphasis added.)

The court also sets out the correct path for governments.

“Governments and individuals proposing to use or exploit land, whether before or after a declaration of Aboriginal title, can avoid a charge of infringement or failure to adequately consult by obtaining the consent of the interested Aboriginal group.

Horgan should heed the advice of the Supreme Court of Canada and revisit the decision to proceed with the pipeline, especially in light of his commitments to resolve land titles, implement UNDRIP and advance reconciliation. The court advised getting the consent of Indigenous people; that’s what he should do.

The right to self-determination

Furthermore, UNDRIP is very clear that all Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination. Self-determination means that Indigenous Peoples will freely determine their own political status. That means governments and companies cannot decide which is the right governing body for a nation. That is a matter for Indigenous Peoples.

The Indian Act imposed a system of government on First Nations, attempting to dismantle a governance system that had functioned for centuries. It made chiefs and councils the owners of the land and gave them total power.

But traditional government systems have not been eradicated.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are opposing the pipeline, and some are questioning their legitimacy.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs launched the lawsuit and took the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Surely this should indicate to the government and companies who has title and rights to the land. And surely, they should recognize that it is up to the Indigenous people to determine this, not the provincial government. Clearly the hereditary chiefs must be part of this decision on whether the pipeline proceeds.

Free, prior and informed consent

Free, prior and informed consent has been and will continue to be an issue in relation to UNDRIP, because governments and Indigenous people do not agree on its meaning.

Horgan’s government has said it was waiting for the UNDRIP legislation to pass before working to reach agreement about what free, prior and informed consent means. He has not tried to work this out with First Nations in advance, even though that would have been prudent.

We have heard Horgan and Minister of Indigenous Relations Scott Fraser say that the requirement for free, prior and informed consent does not give First Nations a veto over projects in their territories.

Then what is consent under UNDRIP? Is it a simple yes or no? Does it give a veto because no means no? These are good questions that must be answered by Indigenous Peoples and governments.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are saying no. No consent. No project. No access. Not on their lands.

In criminal law, a woman can say no to a man and no means no. If he proceeds against her wishes, he can be guilty of a crime. Why doesn’t the requirement for free, prior and informed consent give the same right to Indigenous Peoples?

So what does consent mean to this B.C. government? That they have the final say? That they can decide no does not mean no. That the status quo continues when it comes to development?

That would not reflect a new era of reconciliation, or the principles of UNDRIP. That would be the Crown asserting jurisdiction over First Nations laws and title once again.

Sending in the RCMP to remove protesters is also the same old story — a show of force against defenders of the land who are not armed, who are elders, youth and chiefs. RCMP assert their power under a court order that hasn’t taken into account Indigenous laws.

This pipeline dispute is not new. It has been ongoing for years. That it has not been resolved speaks volumes about the unwillingness of this government to sit down at a table with the hereditary chiefs and talk about why they are opposed and try and resolve differences.

If we are in the era of reconciliation, there needs to be more efforts to come to agreements. If agreements cannot be reached, there needs to be impartial tribunals established to help find those solutions. And if no solutions are found, then there is no project.

If the principles of UNDRIP are being implemented and being placed into laws, the government has to start respecting its provisions now.

For instance, Article 18 gives the Wet’suwet’en the right to participate in any decision-making through their own procedures and law. This has not happened.

Article 26 gives them the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources they possess through ownership, and says the state must give legal recognition and protect their lands and resources. None of this has occurred to date, and it doesn’t look like B.C. is even considering it. The government is saying this is Crown land, the company has Crown permits, so therefore the development must happen.

Article 25 gives the Wet’suwet’en the right to strengthen their spiritual relationship with the land, waters and resources in their territories. But if their territory is destroyed for a pipeline, their relationship with their land will also be destroyed.

Article 29 gives them the right to the productive capacity of their territories, and a pipeline does not allow for this.

There are many more articles on implementing laws and protecting sacred and cultural sites that B.C. is violating by continuing with the pipeline project over Wet’suwet’en objections.

These statements by Horgan set back the ambitious, positive agenda set by his government in implementing UNDRIP. They signal to First Nations’ people in B.C. that the government is not serious about the new law.

And they strongly signal trouble ahead as B.C. continues with its status quo agenda that claims government has final say over developments on First Nation title lands, and the requirement for free, prior and informed consent will not be taken seriously.

Many First Nations peoples in this province are hearing Horgan and asking what has changed?

The answer is nothing. B.C. is moving ahead with the government’s economic agenda at the expense of First Nations rights, title and all the requirements set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

First Nations people thought we were throwing out the old book and beginning a new one. Sadly, it looks like the same old story. This is not the new decade we were looking for. SOURCE

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Oil and gas industry applauds Supreme Court’s dismissal of pipeline case
The criminalization of Indigenous land defenders is a global concern

RCMP, let journalists witness Unist’ot’en Camp

Photo from Facebook page of Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en territory.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have fought for many years to keep three pipelines from running through their land in northern B.C. At stake, the protesters say, is their way of life, their culture and their system of governance which was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in the landmark Delgamuukw decision in 1997.

I remember when the Wet’suwet’en first erected the Unist’ot’en Camp to uphold the clans’ decision to prevent Enbridge, Chevron and TransCanada from building pipelines on their unceded lands in 2010. Tensions rose as they built a blockade and confronted workers who attempted to cross it, saying they had no permission to be on their territory.

Last December, a report by the Guardian newspaper sent shock waves across Canada. The Guardian said it had uncovered documents showing that the RCMP discussed shooting Indigenous clan members and supporters, all in the service of gas and oil. “Notes from a strategy session for a militarized raid on ancestral lands of the Wet’suwet’en nation show that commanders of Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), argued that “lethal overwatch is req’d” — a term for deploying an officer who is prepared to use lethal force.

Is this reconciliation? Hardly.

Is this making amends for residential schools, colonialization, the taking of lands and wealth? You bet it’s not.

Shockingly, a tweet from the Unist’ot’en Camp stated today the RCMP has blocked roads for 27 kilometers leading up to the site, barring media from witnessing and documenting their actions.

“We do not want to see a repeat of last year’s behaviour, when the RCMP used an exclusion zone to block journalists’ access, making it impossible to provide details on a police operation that was very much in the public interest,” Canadian Association of Journalists president Karyn Pugliese said in a tweet.

Pugliese has it right.

Even without the Guardian‘s report of the RCMP’s apparent willingness to use lethal force to remove people from the blockade, the RCMP should not be allowed to stop journalists from witnessing their actions.This is Horgan’s Scott Morrison moment. Like the Australia PM, Horgan is pushing fossil-fuel expansion in face of obviously dire climate change.

Now would be an excellent time for the B.C. Greens to show some backbone. Put Horgan’s govt on the line. If he proceeds against the Wet’suwet’en, dissolve the coalition. Force a new election.
As long as B.C. is going to follow neoliberal policies, the B.C. Liberals may as well be in power. But progressive voters must send a clear message to the NDP. We won’t accept this betrayal.

What have the Greens got to lose?

“Horgan says ‘rule of law applies,’ LNG pipeline will proceed despite protests” (Canadian Press: January 14, 2020)
A natural gas pipeline across northern British Columbia is vital to the region’s economic future and it will be built despite the objections of some Indigenous leaders, Premier John Horgan said Monday.
He said the courts have ruled in favour of the project and the RULE OF LAW will apply to ensure work continues on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would start near Dawson Creek and extend to an export terminal at Kitimat.

Horgan told a news conference the project has received approval from 20 First Nations along the pipeline route.

“We want everyone to understand that there are agreements from the Peace Country to Kitimat with Indigenous communities that want to see economic activity and prosperity take place,” he said. “All the permits are in place for this project to proceed. This project is proceeding and the RULE OF LAW needs to prevail in B.C.”

Horgan’s government adopted legislation late last year to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It mandates the government to bring provincial laws and policies into harmony with the declaration’s aims of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

The UN declaration says Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination, which means they can determine their political status and pursue economic, social and cultural development. It requires governments to obtain “free and informed consent” from Indigenous groups before approving projects affecting their lands or resources.
BUT HORGAN SAYS THE DECLARATION DOESN’T APPLY TO THE COASTAL GASLINK PROJECT.

“Our document, our legislation, our declaration is FORWARD LOOKING,” he said. “It’s NOT RETROSPECTIVE. We believe it will open up opportunities not just for Indigenous people but for all British Columbians.”

https://calgaryherald.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-

The BC Civil Liberties Association stands with the Wet’suwet’en, too:
https://bccla.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/2020-01-10-LT-RCMP-et-al-re…

Our wee co-op has also made such a statement:
http://ecoreality.org/wiki/Statement_in_support_of_the_Wet%27suwet%27en

Do you belong to a church group, charity, civic organization, or serve in local government? Your group is invited to do so, as well!
http://unistoten.camp/support-us/solidarity-statements/

This whole thing is wrong on so many different levels. The Wet’suwet’en is reporting that the RCMP is blocking shipments of food to their camps, during a bitter cold snap! “Starve them out” That thinking is so 1876. It is immoral.  SOURCE

RELATED:

Complaints filed against RCMP for blocking Wet’suwet’en access

Wet’suwet’en solidarity demonstrations take place across Canada

(Activists march through downtown Ottawa. Photo: Brett Forester/APTN)

Marches and demonstrations took place today in cities across Canada as part of an “international call to solidarity” issued by the Unist’ot’en Camp of the Wet’suwet’en Nation – and more are slated for the weekend.

Five Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters oppose Coastal GasLink Ltd.’s (CGL) proposed $6.6 billion, 670-km pipeline that if completed would carry fracked natural gas across northern B.C. to a facility near Kitimat on the coast.

The company has what it needs from the province to continue construction, along with a new injunction to clear the way.

It also has benefit agreements with all 20 elected First Nations governments along the route.

The Unist’ot’en Camp fears a repeat of last year’s RCMP raid on the Gidimt’en checkpoint that saw 14 people arrested. That raid enforced an interim injunction. The new injunction was posted to CGL’s website Tuesday and gave pipeline opponents 72-hours to clear all obstructions.

Marching on the Streets of Ottawa

In the nation’s capital, roughly a hundred demonstrators marched west from Parliament Hill, passing the new Indigenous Peoples Building which sits right across the street.

Activists then delivered speeches in front of the World Exchange Plaza where the TD Bank is located. They moved down the road to the Royal Bank of Canada before completing their march at a makeshift campsite between the Prime Minister’s Office and the National War Memorial.

“I want to see them actually implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, respecting Wet’suwet’en law – back off on their land, retract the permits of Coastal GasLink pipeline – and to stop using force. Leave the land defenders and First Nation to live,” said Vi Bui, an event organizer with Climate Justice Ottawa.

Bui’s group and three different activist organizations marched through the streets of downtown Ottawa, chanting slogans. They voiced support for members of the Wet’suwet’en nation that oppose CGL.

Wet'suwet'en

(Ottawa’s Natalie Lasalle drumming across from Parliament. Photo: Brett Forester/APTN)

Natalie Lasalle, a non-status First Nations woman from Ottawa, said it’s “quite frankly disgusting” that B.C.’s Supreme Court granted an interlocutory injunction authorizing the RCMP to use force once again to remove blockades and arrest anyone obstructing pipeline construction.

“That’s not right,” she said.

“Native people are people, we deserve equal treatment, we deserve the right to our land, we deserve the right to our water, and we deserve the right to peaceful protest.”

Pat Taylor said her group, Extinction Rebellion, pitched the “climate emergency camp” to pressure the government to act on the issue of climate change.

Even though the company has signed agreements with elected First Nations governments, Taylor told APTN News that this doesn’t constitute free and prior informed consent.

“That’s a colonial structure that they have permission from. That is not the recognized government of the Wet’suwet’en people, and they have been on that land for time immemorial,” Taylor argued.

Wet'suwet'en

(Mi’kmaw activist Sophia Sidarous. Photo: Brett Forester/APTN)

Sophia Sidarous, a Mi’kmaw woman living in Gatineau, addressed the assembled crowd through a megaphone.

“They’ve accepted UNDRIP, and they’ve said that this is the most important relationship with the government is nation to nation relationship,” Sidarous told APTN afterward.

“But right now we’re not treated as a nation. We’re treated as criminals and we’re constantly criminalized under Canada. So I would really like to see them put their words into effect.”

Beating the drum in Montreal

 

In Montreal, guided by the beat of Marlene Hale’s drum, dozens of students and supporters gathered near the gates of McGill University – breath visible in the cold air – to convey their solemn message.

Touting hand-painted signs saying “pas de pipelines” or “no CGL,” supporters at Friday’s event – which was organized by the university’s Indigenous Affairs student group – were given the opportunity to write messages of support on pre-addressed postcards to be sent to Unist’ot’en camp.

“[The government] still doesn’t get it, they still live under a rock,” Hale told onlookers. “If you stop all these pipelines, all this atrocity that is happening to the Indigenous people worldwide – you will make a difference.”

Hale, a chef living and working in Montreal, calls herself “the only Wet’suwet’en in Quebec.”

As an “accidental activist,” Hale was thrust into the public spotlight one year ago while questioning the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall in Sainte-Hyacinthe, Que., about the standoff on her home territory.

Even now, a year after that encounter, Hale says little has changed.

“My address today is to Prime Minister Trudeau. Where the heck are you? Why aren’t you here looking after your people?” Hale shouted. “We got you where we are today. You need to come back and do your job.”

Other First Nations representatives were just as openly critical of Trudeau’s perceived inaction.

“We see the way the Canadian government is acting, and reacting to traditional people. Mr. Trudeau talks about his country being based around law and order, but he’s a good liar,” explained Louis Pronovost from Kahnawake Mohawk Territory.

“We see through their actions, they’re not honorable people. They’re not honorable leaders. They’re liars,” he added.

Which, for Hale, augments the anticipation – or apprehension – that a standoff may erupt between the RCMP and the land defenders gathered near the worksite.

“We pray that nobody is going to be hurt. We want them to put their guns down,” Hale said.

“This is what we hold for guns – feathers,” she added, gesturing to an eagle feather held by a nearby supporter. “How can you put that down with an assault rifle? On elders, on young people who are land defenders.”

“That’s all they were,” she added. “They were not criminals.”

Although not physically present during the gathering at McGill, Ghislain Picard, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador, expressed his support and called the government’s previous “violent” arrests of community members “despicable.”

“It is frustrating and disappointing that the Government of Canada is once again committing to the principles of free, prior and informed consent on the one hand, but on the other hand, allowing projects without seeking to work with the First Nations directly affected by them,” Picard said in a statement.

“Clearly, no project will be viable if it is imposed by force on First Nations communities.”

“Canada’s been trespassing against First Nations…” 

 

Mi’kmaq grassroots grandmothers and about 50 supporters rallied in Halifax.

Alton gas protestors led by the grassroots grandmothers braved the cold in Halifax.

Thunderbird Swooping Down Woman occupied a camp at the Alton Gas project site.

At the rally, Woman told the crowd corporations only care about money.

“They don’t care about the land, they don’t care about the water, and that’s the sad part about this and that’s why we have to stand out in this cold to make a point,” she said.

The battle against corporations is coast to coast.

Melissa Morrisseau said she was at the Kinder Morgan blockade in Vancouver in 2018.

“If we don’t show them who will, and we have to instill that pride back into them and show them that together we can do this,” said Morrisseau.

Morrisseau said she will continue to protect the land.

“Canada’s been trespassing against First Nations people forever and it has to stop, it has to stop now,” she said.

SOURCE

‘What cost are human rights worth?’ UN calls for immediate RCMP withdrawal in Wet’suwet’en standoff

Experts say the world is watching to see if Canada heeds a call from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to immediately suspend work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Site C dam until ‘free, prior and informed consent’ is obtained from Indigenous peoples

Wet'suwet'en Coastal GasLink January 2019 Barricade

Police climb over a barricade to enforce the injunction filed by Coastal GasLink pipeline at the Gidimt’en checkpoint near Houston, British Columbia on Monday, January 7, 2019. The pipeline company was given a permit but the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, which has jurisdiction over the territory in question, has never given consent. Fourteen people were arrested. Photo: Amber Bracken

1990, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip was at a Lil’wat Nation blockade to stop clear-cut logging and the expropriation of Mount Currie reserve land when he got a taste of how far governments in Canada are willing to go to prevent Indigenous people from protecting their lands.

“The sniper team came in in two Suburbans and went up onto the hillside and one of the Lil’wat Mount Currey band members came riding across the creek on his horse, quite panicked and warning us that there was a sniper team being deployed in the trees,” Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told The Narwhal.

“We had witnessed the Suburbans coming in, but he actually saw the sniper team disembark and take up positions,” Phillip recalled. “I know that to be a standard tactic on the part of the RCMP.”

As tensions escalate in the stand-off between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink — with the company posting a 72-hour injunction notice allowing the RCMP to arrest anyone blocking access to its work site as early as Friday — Phillip said there’s “an urgency” for Canada to heed a call from the United Nations and immediately halt pipeline construction on Wet’suwet’en lands and territories.

“It’s a precarious situation,” Phillip said, pointing to a recent article in The Guardian disclosing the RCMP was prepared to shoot Indigenous land defenders in the dispute over construction of the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline to ship fracked gas to LNG Canada’s export terminal in Kitimat.

LNG Canada project, Kitimat B.C. 2017

The site of the LNG Canada project in Kitimat B.C. in 2017. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

UN says projects need ‘free, prior and informed’ consent

In a move Phillip called a “significant development,” the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has issued a triple-barrelled decision calling on Canada to immediately suspend work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Site C dam until “free, prior and informed consent” is obtained from Indigenous peoples.

The committee urged Canada to immediately cease the forced eviction of Wet’suwet’en peoples who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline and Secwepemc peoples opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline, to prohibit the use of lethal weapons —  notably by the RCMP — against Indigenous peoples and to guarantee no force will be used against them. It also urged the federal government to withdraw the RCMP, along with associated security and policing services, from traditional lands.

In a two-page decision statement, the committee said it is alarmed by the escalating threat of violence against Indigenous peoples in B.C. and disturbed by the “forced removal, disproportionate use of force, harassment and intimidation by law enforcement officials against Indigenous peoples who peacefully oppose large-scale development projects” on their traditional territories.

Coastal Gaslink Pipeline RCMP Gidimt'en arrest

Police make an arrest January 2019 while enforcing the injunction filed by Coastal GasLink at the Gidimt’en checkpoint near Houston, B.C. Photo: Amber Bracken

“It’s somewhat frustrating and embarrassing that the UN has to chide the government of Canada and the provincial government with respect to what the rule of law is in this country in regard to Indigenous land rights, Indigenous human rights,” Phillip said.

“I think it’s a reflection of the ongoing arrogance of the Trudeau government, that somehow the Trudeau government feels it’s above the law and can just simply flout the law.”

As word of the UN decision spread, Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage called the United Nations an “unelected, unaccountable” body that has no business criticizing Canada’s energy megaprojects.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the country’s largest oil and gas lobby group, issued a press release saying the UN committee’s two-page decision statement “reflects an embarrassing ignorance of Canadian law.”

‘If we think back to the Holocaust, all of that was legal under German law’

But Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said the whole point of the 18-member committee is that it’s comprised of unelected human rights experts appointed by UN member states.

“We want them to be there as objective, non-partisan, non-political experts who are going to look very closely at the situations that are brought to their attention, such as these three serious human rights concerns from Canada, and make the right assessments and make the right decisions entirely free from political influence,” Neve said in an interview.

Indigenous rights scholars point out the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination — whose implementation is monitored by the committee — holds signatories, including Canada, accountable to international human rights law.

They also note that the United Nations, with its overarching focus on human rights, was created in the wake of the Holocaust and other atrocities to ensure increased global scrutiny of human rights in individual countries, and that Canada championed the convention and was one of the first nations to sign on.

” … the process that was followed in Canada is failing … “

University of Manitoba law professor Brenda Gunn said Canadian law should not be used to try to protect or excuse actions cited by the UN committee.

“If we think back to the Holocaust, all of that was legal under German law. What this system is designed to do is to have people outside the state judging standards against something other than domestic law, to ensure that domestic law isn’t violating rights,” said Gunn, a Metis lawyer who provided technical assistance to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People with regards to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“What this committee is saying is that the process that was followed in Canada is failing to uphold Canada’s international human rights [obligations]. You wouldn’t expect this person to need to know Canadian law. All they need to know is the facts of what happened and compare that to their expertise of what is required under international law.”

Potential for ‘deep stain on Canada’s global reputation’

UBC professor Sheryl Lightfoot, a Canada Research Chair in Global Indigenous Rights and Politics, said the UN committee is pointing out that Canada’s law, policy and practice for consultation with Indigenous communities do not meet global human rights standards.

Canada has reported to the UN committee “regularly, routinely and enthusiastically” since 1970, the year after the convention was entered into force, noted Lightfoot, a citizen of the Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe who is senior advisor to the UBC president on Indigenous affairs.

“The one area that Canada stumbles on is once the CERD [Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] casts its eye on Indigenous peoples’ human rights,” Lightfoot said in an interview.

“Canada is normally held up as a role model standard on this particular issue of eliminating racial discrimination.

This is one of the few times, and the notable times, where Canada is on the receiving end of negative news.”

The UN committee decision comes as Canada vies for a coveted seat on the UN Security Council, a bid Gunn said will fall under increased global scrutiny if Canada fails to follow the committee’s recommendations.

“While we may not hear public chastising of Canada in any international forum, there will be many conversations happening in the various lounges at the UN, and elsewhere, where states that Canada was counting on for support will be saying ‘well, what about this recent decision … how do we support a seat on the security council when Canada’s record on human rights continues to be questioned?’ ”

Lightfoot said a lack of action could  “create a deep stain on Canada’s global reputation.”

The committee decision follows landmark legislation passed by the B.C. government in November to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). The federal government has also promised to pass legislation to harmonize Canadian laws with UNDRIP by the end of this year.

Roland Willson, chief of West Moberly First Nations, called the decision a “validation for us.”

West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation are awaiting trial dates to determine if the Site C dam unjustifiably infringes on their constitutionally protected treaty rights, as the nations claim in civil actions filed two years ago.

Among many other impacts, the Site C hydro project will destroy Indigenous burial sites and other places of spiritual and cultural importance — including traditional hunting and fishing grounds — and poison fish with methylmercury.

West Moberly Chief Roland Willson

West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson has been a vocal opponent of the Site C dam. Photo: Jayce Hawkins / The Narwhal

Site C dam called ‘cultural genocide’

Willson said West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations met with Gay McDougall, a U.S. lawyer who is the vice-chair of the UN committee, last year in Vancouver

“It’s not mass genocide that’s happening here. It’s cultural genocide,” Willson told The Narwhal.

“Ms. McDougall said to us, ‘Genocide is genocide. They’re destroying your culture and your culture is who you are as a people. So they’re killing you as a people’ … Our discussion with her verified that we’re right.”

Willson called it a “crime” to destroy the last tract of Peace River Valley available to Indigenous people to engage in traditional practices when there are cheaper and less destructive ways to produce power.

 “…The thought of [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump threatening to destroy Iran’s cultural sites, everybody’s up in arms about that, saying that should be considered war crimes,” Willson said.

“Well here they’re making a decision to destroy what’s left of an intact ecosystem, a vital piece of our culture.”

Article 32 of UNDRIP says governments “shall consult and cooperate in good faith” with Indigenous peoples through their own representative institutions, in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of “any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources” — particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

Site C construction. Peace River. B.C.

Construction of the Site C dam on the banks of the Peace River. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

In a 2019 letter to the UN committee, a copy of which was obtained by The Narwhal, the federal government said it approached the Site C project “in a manner that is consistent” with obtaining free, prior and informed consent, a claim Willson called “hogwash.”

Willson said the federal government only met once with West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations about the Site C dam, for about 20 minutes.

The meeting, with former Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, took place in Vancouver several months after the election of the Trudeau government in the fall of 2015, Willson said, describing the session as “our one avenue to talk about everything.”

Nations ‘conceded’ instead of consenting

“Conceding is far from consenting,” Willson said. “Every nation in Treaty 8 was opposed to Site C.”

But after the project — championed for decades by BC Hydro — received final B.C. government approval in December 2014, “some of the nations conceded to BC Hydro,” Willson said.

“Their decision was not free,” he said. “It wasn’t prior. It was after the fact.”

A letter Willson sent to the UN committee two months ago said many affected Indigenous peoples have not consented to construction of the Site C project, including Blueberry River First Nation, Prophet River First Nation and Fort Nelson First Nation.

“Not a single Indigenous group supported Site C before Canada had issued all major approvals, and some groups that signed an agreement on the project afterwards stated publicly that they had never consented,” Willson wrote.

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark infamously vowed she would push the Site C project past the point of no return, the letter noted.

“There was never any intent by Canada or British Columbia to consider alternatives offered by Indigenous peoples,” Willson told the committee.

The chief also questioned the notion that First Nations were given “informed” details about the Site C project.

“Bogus estimates about future energy demand were used during consultations by the Province of British Columbia and BC Hydro to manufacture a need for the dam and to disregard less impactful alternatives such as wind and solar,” he said.

“These estimates have now been debunked by the B.C. Utilities Commission, British Columbia’s own independent utilities regulator.”

‘What cost are human rights worth?’

Asked about the economic cost of suspending the three projects, Lightfoot said, “what cost are human rights worth?”

“That’s the question for Canada,” she said. “The CERD [Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] is trying to bring to Canada’s attention that when dealing with human rights you have to consider all people’s human rights and consider them equally.”

Gunn said major resource projects like the Site C dam and the TransMountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines will continue to experience delays and court challenges until Canada does a better job of engaging and working with Indigenous peoples. The current situation doesn’t lead to greater certainty for anyone, she pointed out.

“It just leads to more divisions and more problems.”

Neve said the UN committee has made it clear on a number of occasions it is deeply concerned that industrial projects such as the Site C dam and Coastal GasLink pipeline are proceeding in ways that violate the rights of Indigenous people.

“It is unconscionable for Canada to just shrug our shoulders and ignore that,” Neve said. “It’s time to do what the UN is asking us to do.”

It’s not the first time the UN committee has called on Canada to suspend the Site C project, which would flood 128 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries in the heart of Treaty 8 traditional territory if the dam is completed in 2024 as scheduled.

In September 2017, the committee recommended that Canada immediately suspend all permits and approvals for the publicly funded $10.7 billion project, which will produce an average of 680 megawatts of electricity.

The committee also advised Canada to end “the substitution of costly legal challenges as post facto recourse in place of obtaining meaningful free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples.”

The UN committee issued a second rejoinder in December 2019 when it again cited a “lack of measures taken to ensure the right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent” for the Site C dam. It warned that construction without such consent would infringe on Indigenous peoples’ rights protected under the international convention.

The Narwhal reached out to Global Affairs Canada for a response to the UN committee’s decision. Global Affairs Canada — whose email signature touts Canada’s bid for a UN Security Council seat  — put us in touch with Heritage Canada.

Heritage Canada said it hoped to have a response for January 8, but no response was received by publication time.

Phillip said the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs will request a meeting with federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett to discuss the decision.

“We’ll be speaking not only to the government of Canada but also to the provincial government and Premier [John] Horgan with regard to the CERD [Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] report and its implications vis a vis Bill 41,” Phillip said.

He said the union doesn’t accept the notion that Bill 41, B.C.’s new UNDRIP legislation, will only apply to new resource projects.

“We don’t buy that. The law is the law.” SOURCE


Wet’suwet’en threatened with eviction from their territory

The situation is escalating in Wet’suwet’en unceded territory in northern British Columbia this week as they face eviction by the RCMP if they do not remove any obstacles that would prevent workers from getting to construction sites for a Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The Wet’suwet’en need you to act in solidarity with their defense of traditional territory in the face of development projects that have not received the free, prior and informed consent of their people.

ACT NOW in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en: 

1. Sign our partner RavenTrust’s letter to Coastal GasLink reminding the executives of the rights of Indigenous Peoples that are to be respected, and urging them to respect the eviction order from the Hereditary Chiefs.

2. Visit the Wet’suwet’en Supporter page and take action to support the land defense. There is plenty of information on how to visit the camp, fundraise, write letters to law-makers, and resources for education and solidarity work with your neighbours.

In December 2019, The UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination recognized that Canada did not obtain the consent needed to begin construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Committee instructed Canada to immediately halt construction and suspend all permits and approvals for the project, and urged Canada to withdraw RCMP and security and policing forces from the traditional territories.

Nevertheless, on December 31, 2019 a BC Supreme Court judge extended an injunction against the Wet’suwet’en, saying construction of the natural gas pipeline has been harmed by their defense camps. The hereditary Chiefs reject the Court’s decision based on their inherent, constitutional and human rights to govern their traditional territory under their own governance and legal systems and have once again ordered Coastal GasLink off their lands.

Thank you for speaking out today in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en.

Image result for logo amnesty internationalIn solidarity,

Ana Nicole Collins
Indigenous Rights Advisor
Amnesty International Canada

 

 

Unist’ot’en camp awaits RCMP after injunction enforced at Gidimt’en anti-pipeline checkpoint

Mounties enforcing court order to allow pipeline company access to northern B.C. road and bridge

The Unist’ot’en camp is one of two set up by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to prevent TransCanada Corp from gaining access to the road near Houston, B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

It remained to be seen Wednesday how the RCMP would enforce a court injunction that would grant the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project access to a road and bridge near Houston, B.C., that have been blocked by opponents of the project from the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

The Unist’ot’en camp is one of two set up by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to prevent TransCanada Corp., which owns Coastal GasLink, from gaining access to the forest road in northern B.C., about 300 kilometres west of Prince George.

The proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline is meant to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coast, where a liquefied natural gas project is scheduled for construction.

On Monday, RCMP entered the fortified checkpoint at the Gidimt’en camp on the forest service road to enforce the injunction, granted in December, ordering people to stop preventing workers from gaining access. Fourteen people were arrested.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation established the camps with fortified checkpoints, saying Coastal GasLink workers can only pass if they have consent from hereditary leaders.

An RCMP officer speaks with a driver at the ‘exclusion zone’ police have set up on a forest road near Houston, B.C., as they enforce an injunction allowing pipeline workers access past Wet’suwet’en checkpoints. Mounties were headed to a second camp Tuesday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

TransCanada, now known as TC Energy, said it signed agreements with all First Nations along the proposed pipeline route to the $40-billion LNG Canada facility being built in Kitimat, B.C., but some hereditary chiefs say those agreements don’t apply to the traditional territories.

RCMP Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said the people arrested on Monday were brought to the Houston detachment.

“Any of those who were arrested in violation of the injunction or any of the orders in the injunction have to be taken before the justice who issued the injunction, which happens to be in Prince George,” she said.

She said she did not know when that would happen.

About a dozen Unist’ot’en supporters gathered in front of the Prince George courthouse Tuesday.

Watch footage from outside the courthouse:

Unist’ot’en supporters outside Prince George courthouse
Unist’ot’en supporters outside Prince George courthouse 0:38

Some people who weren’t arrested Monday at Gidimt’en retreated to the Unist’ot’en camp. It was established in 2010 in a remote part of the Wet’suwet’en​ Nation’s traditional territory.

Media are not being permitted to pass the RCMP exclusion zone established on the forest service road at the 27 kilometre mark.

ChantelleBellrichard

This is as far as we could get today. Police exclusion zone still at the 27km mark of the road. RCMP chopper took off while we were there. A few people on site at a fire.

Embedded video

 

Hereditary Chief Namoks spoke at a rally held in nearby Smithers, B.C., Tuesday in support of the Unist’ot’en camp. He and other leaders have been meeting with RCMP and he said police want to bring in people from the Assembly of First Nations and the Union of British

Columbia Indian Chiefs to foster “dialogue.”

“They need to build trust with us,” he said.

“We have no trust right now. We understand the RCMP was doing what they were ordered to do. I don’t hold animosity against any human being but I do have an issue when industry is steering a government which orders the RCMP to do what they did to our people yesterday.”

Rallies were held across Canada on Tuesday in support of the Wet’suwet’en camps.

ChantelleBellrichard

Chief Namoks talks a bit about their meeting with the RCMP today re

Embedded video

In an open letter posted on the company’s website, he wrote it was “unfortunate the RCMP were forced to take this action.”

Elder Carmen Nikal speaks at a rally in Smithers, B.C., Tuesday. She was among 14 people arrested Monday at the Gidimt’en camp for defying an injunction. She was released overnight but the others were held in custody. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“We took legal action as a last resort and only after six years of unsuccessful efforts to find a mutual solution,” the letter reads in part.

“We respect the rights of individuals to peacefully express their point of view, as long as their activities do not disrupt or jeopardize the safety of the public, our employees, our contractors, and even themselves.”

Murray Rankin, MP for Victoria, also posted an open letter on the NDP website, writing that the party is calling on the prime minister “to engage immediately with the Wet’suwet’sen and demonstrate his commitment to real and meaningful reconciliation.”

“If Prime Minister Trudeau is serious about his commitments to Indigenous Peoples, he needs to help facilitate a peaceful resolution that respects the rights of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation,” Rankin wrote. SOURCE

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