What If We’d Gone Hard for Treaties Instead of Fossil Fuels?

Our politics likely would be more stable, our economy more diversified.

Woodfibre LNG plan

An artist’s rendition of the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant near Squamish, one of 20 such projects once floated, but either cancelled or yet to be built.

Weeks of national rail blockades, Indigenous relations in tatters, and an emergency agreement between Ottawa and Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. So what has been resolved?

Not much apparently. The B.C. government made it clear that it intends to push ahead with the contentious natural gas pipeline and the same route opposed by Wet’suwet’en Hereditary leadership.

How did we get in this mess and how do we get out?

As car wrecks go, this was as slow-motion as they come, political failures decades in the making. The same basic choices presented themselves to one political leader after another. Repeatedly they chose wrong or dithered.

Had they not, today’s government could enjoy stable and just relations with First Nations, partnering in a 21st-century economy that’s more clean and diversified. Instead we are mired in the consequences come home to roost.

The needless debacle of a RCMP intrusion onto Wet’suwet’en Traditional Territory is a result of successive governments failing to resolve outstanding title claims, which in the case of the Wet’suwet’en predate their 1985 court challenge to the B.C. government. This case eventually resulted in the landmark Delgamuukw decision from the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997 articulating the nascent principle in Canadian law of Aboriginal title.

What should have happened then was the hard and necessary work on the part of elected governments to negotiate settlements with individual First Nations, consistent with direction provided by the courts.

Twenty-three years later, pitiful progress has been made. The province has treaties with only three B.C. First Nations. Fifty-seven others that signed up with the B.C. Treaty Commission process are either still laboring at the table or “not currently negotiating” — including the Wet’suwet’en. There is no free lunch as the free-marketers say and the consequences of failing to resolve title issues were on obvious display at railway crossings across the country.

The foolish bet on LNG

True, to have wagered serious provincial resources on resolving complex treaty deals would have meant a bold roll of the dice 20 years ago. But it’s not as if B.C.’s government hasn’t instead bet huge on a play that today shows little prospect of ever paying off.

Seven years ago then-premier Christy Clark won election while misleading voters about the supposed riches liquefied natural gas would bring B.C. Even as she promised that by 2017 at least three LNG plants would be generating a $100-billion savings fund, erasing all debt and employing tens of thousands of people, experts declared that to be a fantasy.

By three years ago, methane prices had collapsed 75 per cent due to a worldwide glut and Australia’s LNG industry was bleeding losses.

Today, bizarrely, B.C.’s government continues to aggressively scale up natural gas extraction on unceded lands at the very moment in history such contentious pipeline projects make the least economic sense.

Natural gas prices around the world are tanking. Natural gas royalties in B.C. have shrunk to a minuscule portion of provincial government revenue while gas production — and emissions — have ballooned.

582px version of ChristyClarkJohnHorganHands.jpg
Christy Clark and her successor BC Premier John Horgan. Both bet huge tax money and political capital in the LNG dream. Photos: BC Broadcast Consortium.

In the last ten years provincial gas production has increased 45 per cent while public revenues collapsed by over 90 per cent. With more than $380 million in provincial subsidies, the net return to taxpayers from gas production last year was only $153 million — less than 0.25 percent of Crown revenues. This supposed boom sector now provides the B.C. treasury one quarter as much money as taxing cigarettes.

According to B.C. government figures, the oil and gas sector directly and indirectly employed 12,600 people in 2019, or 0.49 percent of the provincial workforce — about the same number of people employed as couriers. Meanwhile reported emissions from well sites and pipelines now exceed that of all personal vehicles on the road in the province.

If we also include eventual emissions from burning the 52 billion cubic metres of natural gas produced in B.C. in 2017, the atmospheric burden amounts to more than 170 per cent of the entire B.C. economy.

Methane is over 20 times more powerful than CO2 in heating the atmosphere so limiting leaks over the vast and remote network of fracking facilities and pipelines is critical for fighting the climate emergency. However, peer reviewed research based on the first and only independent field sampling of well sites in northern B.C. found official estimates of fugitive methane from this supposed “green” energy are two-and-a-half times higher than reported by industry and the B.C. government.

Lead or get out of the way

The two most pressing issues facing the Canadian resource sector are honourably resolving issues of Aboriginal Title, and providing credible and predictable policies to address the climate crisis. However, various provincial governments seem to be still pretending that these imperatives do not exist.

Apart from an abysmal economic case, the CEO of Teck Resources made it clear that the absence of consistent public policy on climate change made their $20.6 billion Frontier bitumen mine project untenable. While Alberta Premier Jason Kenney sees political advantage in endless fights with Ottawa, industry instead seeks certainty. Most major fossil fuel companies have in fact been calling for predictable carbon pricing for years.

And finally now, after the Teck withdrawal and amidst the blockade crisis, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has decided, “What I think we need to do now is have a very urgent, very serious conversation between the federal government, the provincial government, the oil sector and indeed, the whole country….”

Here in B.C., the supposed imperative of natural gas extraction is blowing both our climate goals and efforts towards Indigenous reconciliation out of the water. It is long overdue to begin an honest conversation with the B.C. public about this planet-killing sunset sector.

The $10.7 billion Site C dam was approved largely in service of a long-hyped LNG boom that so far has only resulted in one single project under construction that is years from completion.

world awash in cheap natural gas and the U.S. fracking industry will keep North American prices close to historic lows for the foreseeable future.

Much of our provincial production, meanwhile, is sold in Alberta to extract bitumen — itself a dying industry. LNG exports from Kitimat to mythically lucrative Asian markets are at least five years away — likely too late to secure global market share.

Vast amounts of monetary and political capital have been squandered on this boondoggle. When will we have the political courage to cut our losses and move on? Apparently not yet.

Likewise, there seems no likelihood of Jason Kenney’s government having an honest conversation about the future of the fossil fuel sector with Alberta’s voters. Even as private capital flees the sinking sector, he plans to throw scarce public money and pension funds at a doomed industry.

Why? Because it easier than admitting that years of overheated rhetoric to the contrary was simply untrue. Ripping up carbon pricing and picking fights with rating agencies only drives away what little investment might be interested in Alberta’s oil patch, but apparently the show must go on.

First Nations and their supporters have again reminded provincial and federal governments that resource extraction without respecting Indigenous rights is no longer acceptable. Markets have made it clear that the days of easy money thrown at fossil fuel megaprojects have also gone by the wayside, especially in the absence of credible carbon pricing.

It is the job of elected governments to provide leadership and certainty on the pressing issues of the day. Judging by the smoldering situation with First Nations in Canada and the jittery mood of investors in the resource sector, our leaders need to do better. Much better.  [Tyee] SOURCE


How BC’s LNG Fiasco Went So Wrong

The draft deal between the Wet’suwet’en and the government explained

RCMP officers raid Unist’ot’en Camp in Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia on Feb. 10, 2020. Photo from Unist’ot’en Camp on Twitter

Hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation struck a proposed deal with British Columbia and federal officials over the weekend in a land title dispute that inspired nationwide rail blockades.

But the tentative agreement, announced Sunday after three days of talks between the hereditary chiefs and officials from the federal and provincial governments, doesn’t address the pipeline at the centre of the controversy. That means the Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades are unlikely to stop, for now.

“We’re not standing down, and we’re not asking anybody else to stand down either,” said Molly Wickham, also known as Sleydo, a spokesperson for Gidimt’en, a Wet’suwet’en clan.

Several Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are fighting to stop the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a planned natural gas project that’s slated to run through the nation’s unceded traditional territory in northern B.C. The solidarity blockades were sparked last month after the RCMP raided Wet’suwet’en camps to clear pipeline opponents out of the project’s path.

Here’s what you need to know about the draft agreement, and how it impacts Coastal GasLink and the Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades.

The tentative deal, explained

Graphic by Elias Campbell at Soulfood Productions ​​​​​​


The proposed agreement does not address Coastal GasLink directly, focusing instead on the deeper issue of Wet’suwet’en governance and the nation’s right to its traditional territory. The draft agreement essentially sets ground rules for more discussions over what to do about the controversial pipeline.

A 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, has previously affirmed that the Wet’suwet’en have the right to their land. But the court didn’t resolve several key questions, leaving the nation to either negotiate with the B.C. government or go back for a costly second trial, neither of which happened.

Now, 23 years later, the proposed arrangement attempts to pick up where the Delgamuukw decision left off.

The hereditary chiefs, federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart Scott Fraser announced the broad intent of the draft deal Sunday, but didn’t divulge details. Before the proposed agreement is shared publicly, the nation will review it in the feast hall ⁠— where Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders typically make major decisions ⁠— in accordance with Anuk nu’at’en, or Wet’suwet’en law, in the next few weeks.

On Sunday, Hereditary Chief Woos said the proposed agreement is a milestone, but the “degree of satisfaction is not what we expected.”

The tentative agreement doesn’t address the Coastal GasLink pipeline directly, nor does it mean Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades will end anytime soon.

Traditionally, the Wet’suwet’en Nation is governed by hereditary chiefs from five clans and 13 family subgroups. The hereditary chiefs of each clan have jurisdiction over that clan’s territory.

Canada’s colonial Indian Act also created elected band councils with jurisdiction over reserve lands. Some elected councils have supported the project, though the reserve lands aren’t adjacent to the pipeline.

What does this mean for Coastal GasLink?

Coastal GasLink@CoastalGasLink

Coastal GasLink Statement on the Conclusion of Discussions Between Hereditary Chiefs and Government…

Following the conclusion of discussions between the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and representatives of the federal and provincial governments, Coastal GasLink President David Pfeiffer has issued…


British Columbia Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser has said the agreement wouldn’t be retroactive, meaning it wouldn’t affect the government’s previous approval of the pipeline.

Meanwhile, the hereditary chiefs who oppose Coastal GasLink have said they are unwilling to allow the pipeline to proceed.

It isn’t clear when pipeline construction could begin. Last month, B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) rejected a key report from Coastal GasLink Ltd., a subsidiary of TC Energy (formerly known as TransCanada), which will construct and operate the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The report must be approved before the company can begin building an 18-kilometre portion of the pipeline in Wet’suwet’en territory, near the Morice River (also known as Wedzin Kwah). The company now has 30 days to go back and do more consultation with the Wet’suwet’en.

Aside from area affected by the EAO’s rejection of the report, Coastal GasLink’s backers are free to do construction work on Wet’suwet’en territory. In the area where it’s not allowed to do construction work, the company can still complete other do pre-construction tasks like surveying, the B.C. Ministry of Environment confirmed to National Observer Monday.

Last week, work stopped on Wet’suwet’en territory to allow for talks between the Wet’suwet’en and the Canadian governments.

After the tentative deal was announced, the company said it would resume “construction activities” Monday. The company didn’t specify what that entailled, and didn’t immediately respond to a request for clarification from National Observer Monday.

Why aren’t the blockades coming down?

The blockades have led to outcry from several industries that have struggled to move goods, upping pressure on political leaders to resolve the situation.

More Indigenous-led demonstrations have sprung up even as authorities attempt to shut them down with arrests and court injunctions. The pipeline opponents organizing the blockades have said they won’t stop until the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ demands are met.

That hasn’t worked out so far. The chiefs have asked for Coastal GasLink to be halted ⁠— something the B.C. government has said it’s unwilling to do.

They’ve also asked the RCMP to leave Wet’suwet’en territory. The Mounties temporarily stopped patrolling the area to allow for talks between the chiefs and the Canadian governments, but it’s not clear whether officers will return now that initial discussions have ended.

Two of the most prominent blockades, Mohawk-led demonstrations in Belleville, Ont., and Kahnawake, Que., remain in place. A separate one outside of Montreal temporarily blocked VIA Rail service Monday.

Racist backlash has erupted against Indigenous pipeline opponents


Gidimt’en Checkpoint@Gidimten

Dini’ze Woos: The Hereditary Chiefs are opposed to any pipeline going through their territory (1/3)

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Gidimt’en Checkpoint@Gidimten

Tsake’za Sleydo’: We’re not resting, we’re not giving up, we’re not standing down, we’re not asking other people to stand down. (2/3)

Embedded video

Last week, a bomb threat was reported against the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, who have organized the rail blockade near Belleville. A similar threat was made against Unist’ot’en, a Wet’suwet’en house group.

Some threats have included calls for vigilante violence against protestors, the online media outlet Ricochet reported.

What happens next?

Gidimt’en Checkpoint@Gidimten

Dini’ze Woos: The Hereditary Chiefs are opposed to any pipeline going through their territory (1/3)

Embedded video

If the clans approve, federal and provincial officials will return to sign the deal. If not, it’s unclear what will happen.

More discussions will be required either way to sort out what to do about Coastal GasLink.

For now, pipeline opponents have planned solidarity actions in various cities through the first week of March. SOURCE

‘Enforcers of the colonizers’: Wet’suwet’en crisis casts spotlight on long, difficult history between RCMP and Indigenous peoples

The North West Mounted Police in Lethbridge, Alberta in 1885. The origins of the police force began as a paramilitary group that often treated Indigenous peoples violently.

They were the images that Terry Teegee did not want to see.

In the pre-dawn darkness of Feb. 6, Mounties descended on a snow-covered forest road in northern B.C. where supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to a natural gas pipeline had set up camp.

As images of the raid and arrest of six people spread on social media, it triggered waves of protests and blockades across Canada and brought up memories from a year ago, when heavily armed RCMP stormed through a barricade and arrested 14 people in a similar raid that grabbed international attention.

Teegee, B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says he got on the phone and asked senior RCMP officials to consider alternatives. “Do you really need to arrest people?”

While Teegee is grateful to have open communication with the Mounties, he admits he can’t help but feel an element of distrust and suspicion.

“There’s a very strained relationship with RCMP in Canada and Indigenous peoples,” he says.

Teegee, a member of the Takla Lake First Nation near Prince George, says Mounties are known in his community as nilhchuk-in, “those who take us away.”

It’s a reference to the Mounties’ historical role in removing Indigenous children from their homes and placing them in residential schools. “We describe them as these people who took our children, stole our children.”

A member of the Mohawk Tyendinaga nation walks past a sign as they block the CN tracks in Tyendinaga, Ont. earlier this month

Though RCMP have since relocated their base of operations and suspended patrols in Wet’suwet’en territory in an “act of good faith” to allow Indigenous leaders and federal and provincial government officials to try to resolve the dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a tenuous backdrop remains.

“You see some positive movements in this relationship, but ultimately it’s very … what’s going on here is really testing that relationship,” Teegee says.

The RCMP’s history with Indigenous peoples dates back to the beginnings of the force itself.

Established in 1873 under Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, the police service was initially known as the North-West Mounted Police.

The force’s early relationship with Indigenous people has been the subject of “myth,” according to Steve Hewitt, a lecturer at Britain’s University of Birmingham who has written extensively on the RCMP.

“There’s the notion, increasingly challenged, that the Mounties played a protective role for Indigenous peoples, when in reality the Mounted Police were modelled after the Royal Irish Constabulary, a paramilitary colonial police force that the British used to control the Irish. In the Canadian case, the Mounted Police helped with the process of moving Indigenous peoples onto reserves to free up land for European settlers.”

In a recent online column, historian Sean Carleton, a professor at Mount Royal University, described a “long historical pattern of Canada using a “might is right” approach to suppress Indigenous resistance.” It’s an ugly history, he writes, that may be jarring to those Canadians who “cling to the mythology of the Mounties as red-coated riders who brought ‘law and order’ to the west.”


He cites many flashpoints over the decades.

There was the arrest in 1968 by RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police of a number of Mohawk citizens who had blocked a bridge near Cornwall, Ont., after the government decided to levy customs duties on goods brought back from the U.S.

In 1995, there was the deployment by RCMP of 400 tactical officers to Gustafsen Lake in B.C., where a group of First Nations Sun Dancers were locked in a dispute with a rancher over access to land.

And in 2013, there was the arrest by RCMP of some 40 Elsipogtog First Nation members in New Brunswick who blocked a road during a dispute over fracking activity in their territory.

It’s a far from exhaustive list.

While acknowledging that its relationship with Indigenous communities has at times been difficult, RCMP officials say they have been working to repair it.

In an email this week, RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Caroline Duval outlined in detail many of the steps the force has taken to improve relations with Indigenous groups “based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership” and said the force was developing a Canada-wide “reconciliation strategy.”

“As we forge a new path towards change, mutual respect and trust, we cannot forget or minimize the errors of the past. This is the only way in which we can ensure we do not repeat past actions.”

Duval acknowledged that reconciliation efforts can be hampered “when our role as a law enforcement agency brings us into potential conflict with Indigenous peoples, land defenders and supporters.” But when a court injunction is issued, as happened with the blockades on Wet’suwet’en territory, the RCMP strives to take a measured approach, she said. The hope always is to reach a peaceful resolution, “without the need for police intervention.”

But one academic who has studied the policing of protest movements says he’s skeptical of these overtures given the RCMP’s “strong institutional culture” and failure to become a more demographically diverse force. (As of April 2019, the force consisted of 22 per cent women, 11.5 per cent visible minorities and 7.5 per cent Indigenous).

Jeffrey Monaghan, a criminology professor at Carleton University, said there’s a tendency for Indigenous demonstrators to receive more scrutiny and surveillance than non-Indigenous ones. It stems from a long-held policing bias — stretching back to colonial times — that views Indigenous communities as more prone to violence, aggressive and risky.

“Police culture is really hard to change. It’s highly ingrained,” he said. “These are really inbound, tight and fraternal organizations. The RCMP is at the forefront of that.”

Duval said the force has offered two official apologies for the role RCMP played in the Indian Residential School legacy. Last year, she noted, the RCMP announced a land swap with a private land owner in Regina to enable the transfer of a residential school cemetery — containing the graves of dozens of Indigenous children — to an Indigenous commemorative group.

Further, Indigenous committees have been set up nationally and regionally to advise senior RCMP leadership on the delivery of policing services in Indigenous communities. And all cadets at the training academy now participate in an interactive “blanket exercise” that teaches Indigenous history.

In what was described as a watershed moment in late 2015, Bob Paulson, then-commissioner of the RCMP, told a gathering of the Assembly of First Nations there were racists in his force and that he wanted to get rid of them. At the time, Indigenous leaders praised the top Mountie for his candour. The Star reported that AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde told the top Mountie his presence at the meeting was “starting to earn that trust and respect.”

In 2018, Brenda Lucki, Paulson’s successor, issued an apology to the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls at a national inquiry, saying “the RCMP could have done better.”

AFN Alberta regional chief Marlene Poitras said Friday these are all positive steps and is hopeful relations will improve.

In the village of Fort Chipewyan where she grew up, she says, RCMP officers have done a much better job of integrating themselves in the community.

But like her counterpart in B.C., she says it’s hard to erase the darker moments from her memory.

“RCMP have always been enforcers of the colonizers,” she said, adding that high incarceration rates of Indigenous people remain a top concern. (Just last month, Canada’s corrections watchdog released a report saying that the number of Indigenous people in federal custody had risen to 30 per cent).

There’s no question communication between Indigenous communities and police has improved, Teegee said. But “even though there has been great efforts made, it certainly hasn’t changed enough to make it a good and functional relationship.”

The news this week that the RCMP in B.C. had agreed to stop police patrols in Wet’suwet’en territory to allow hereditary chiefs and government officials to negotiate an end to the pipeline dispute is a constructive step, Monaghan said. But why did this take so long?

“I think they’re going to be stuck with these very colonial images of super-militarized police storming a barricade in remote Indigenous territory … for a long time.”  SOURCE

Police removal of Tyendinaga Mohawk is a thumbnail in the violent mosaic of Canadian colonization


Wet’suwet’en await ‘imminent’ RCMP action as Coastal GasLink negotiations break down

Sabina Dennis holds her hands up as RCMP tactical teams approach the Gidimt’en checkpoint on Wet’suwet’en territory on Jan. 7, 2019. Photo by Michael Toledano

Surveillance helicopters circling overhead. Police officers, some carrying tactical gear, pouring into the surrounding towns. An elder arrested, then released, for trying to go past a police checkpoint.

On the ground along a remote forest road in northern B.C., members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation say police presence has been ramping up, despite assurances from the RCMP that officers would stand down as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and officials from the British Columbia government met to try to de-escalate the ongoing dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

On Tuesday night, the hereditary chiefs announced that the talks had broken down, leaving the looming possibility that the RCMP will “imminently” move into the nation’s territory. Tensions in the region have been high since January 2019, when the RCMP violently arrested 14 people while enforcing a court order to remove the Wet’suwet’en from the path of the pipeline’s construction.

“Efforts to de-escalate the situation on the territories were severed when the province refused to pull the permits they issued to (Coastal GasLink),” said Smogelgem, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief of the Fireweed Clan, on Twitter.

Coastal GasLink, a natural gas pipeline, would run through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory over the objections of the nation’s hereditary chiefs. Members of the nation have set up several camps along the Morice West Forest Service Road, about 1,200 kilometres north of Vancouver, to reoccupy their traditional lands and block resource projects.

Before the chiefs announced discussions with the province, the RCMP had been preparing to enforce a second injunction the B.C. Supreme Court granted to Coastal GasLink on Dec. 31. After seven days of talks known as Wiggus — the Wet’suwet’en word for respect — were announced, RCMP confirmed more officers were still being deployed in the area.

In a press release late Tuesday, the hereditary chiefs said a mediator had been in touch with the pipeline company after two days of talks.

“Coastal GasLink declined to see this discussion resulting in progress,” the statement said. “Therefore, the enforcement of the injunction zone is imminent.

The chiefs also urged peace, saying they remain committed to the Wiggus process and “will continue discussions with the Province of British Columbia.” A representative didn’t immediately return a call from National Observer.

In a press release, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, emphasized the need for safety.

Talks between the Wet’suwet’en the B.C. government ended without resolution late on the evening of Feb. 4. The community fears violence may be imminent as RCMP stage in nearby towns. #bcpoli

“It was very clear from our discussions that all of us came together in good faith to try to find a way forward together,” the statement said. “While we were not successful in finding a resolution to the current situation, we continue to remain open to dialogue with the Wet’suwet’en leadership on this issue.”

TC Energy, which owns Coastal GasLink, said in a statement that its senior leadership had been in nearby Smithers, B.C. to meet with the hereditary chiefs “if required,” but “unfortunately, we were unable to meet with the chiefs.” The company said it must quikcly resume construction to meet its various business commitments.

“In the coming days, Coastal GasLink will resume construction activities,” the statement read. “It is our hope that the resumption of construction activities occurs in a lawful and peaceful manner that maintains the safety of all in the Morice River area.”

The community now fears more violence may be imminent ⁠— especially as at least three of the same commanding officers who spearheaded last year’s RCMP efforts appear to be again leading the charge.

“They’re exactly the same oppressive violent force of oppression that they were on Jan. 7 last year,” said Molly Wickham, also known as Sleydo, a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

“They haven’t learned a thing.”

Wickham was one of those arrested last year. In an interview Tuesday, she said three of the same commanding officers from 2019 ⁠— John Brewer, Robert Pikola and Dave Attfield ⁠— are still around now.

“People recognize them,” she said, adding that the hereditary chiefs have unsuccessfully asked for those commanders to be reassigned. “They know who they are, because (the officers) were responsible for what happened last year.”

The RCMP confirmed that Brewer is still deployed in the area, but “we respectfully decline in identifying any other officers from incidents that took place last year,” RCMP spokesperson Staff. Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said in an email Tuesday.

According to a report in the Guardian, the officers leading the 2019 effort were prepared at the time to use deadly force against the Wet’suwet’en.

RCMP Silver Command John Brewer and Gold Command Dave Attfield, who oversaw the 2019 actions against the We’suwet’en checkpoint, attempt to visit a Wet’suwet’en camp on Feb. 11, 2019. Photo by Michael Toledano

‘Lethal overwatch’

Citing detailed notes from an RCMP strategy session held before the RCMP swept the Wet’suwet’en checkpoint, the British newspaper reported that snipers were present, and officers had been prepared to use “lethal overwatch” ⁠— a police term that is understood to mean an officer is prepared to use lethal force. They were also instructed to use “as much violence… as you want” in “sterilizing (the) site,” the Guardian said.

The notes were stamped with Pikola’s name, the Guardian said.

The RCMP has strongly denied the Guardian’s reporting, saying lethal overwatch “does not indicate action other than observation.” That statement contrasts with a 2010 memo produced by the B.C. RCMP., and a review of military and law enforcement literature in both Canada and the US conducted by the Guardian.

The RCMP has also said snipers were sent as part of larger emergency response teams that are generally deployed all at once, according to a statement released after the article was published. Initially, the RCMP had said it wasn’t able to locate or verify the documents referenced by the Guardian; the organization has since found them, said Shoihet.

“We would also add that information was taken out of context and (there was) significant work done with respect to discussions, meetings, protocols, cultural training, etc.,” said Shoihet in an email.

“We have no intention in contributing to the tensions, but will ensure that allegations or misinformation is corrected when it comes to our actions. As we have stated repeatedly, we have not and will not take action to enforce the B.C. Supreme Court-ordered injunction by removing the obstructions on the Morice West Forest Service Road during this time.”

Brewer in particular is a “veteran, decorated police officer who himself is Indigenous,” though not Wet’suwet’en, Shoihet added. “We have well-trained and experienced personnel, including our operational commanders, overseeing our efforts prior to last year’s enforcement and since.”

Wickham said learning about Wet’suwet’en culture and employing Indigenous officers still doesn’t give the RCMP the right to remove community members from their home.

“Seeing a brown face or another Indigenous person harassing us and oppressing us in those same ways for the benefit of profit and ongoing colonization is quite frustrating, and by no means does it de-escalate the situation,” Wickham said.

“It’s a sad, sad thing… it’s so offensive that they’d even bring it up.”

Lady Chainsaw, a supporter of Unist’ot’en, on the bridge that marks the boundary to the territory of the house within the Wet’suwet’en Nation, on Jan. 26, 2020. Photo by Michael Toledano.

‘We are under duress’

The case of the Wet’suwet’en and Coastal GasLink exposes a stark divide between the traditional Wet’suwet’en legal system and Canada’s colonial legal system. Under Wet’suwet’en law, authority over the nation’s 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory lies with hereditary chiefs from five clans, who oppose the pipeline. But TC Energy, which owns the pipeline project, received approval to build the pipeline from some elected band councils, ⁠a governing body created by Canada’s colonial Indian Act, which have jurisdiction over reserve lands but not the disputed territory.

A 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirmed that the provincial government can’t extinguish the hereditary chiefs’ right to their land. However, the court also sent the case back for a second trial that hasn’t yet happened, leaving key questions unresolved.

Stating concerns about safety after the raid last January, the hereditary chiefs struck a temporary deal to allow Coastal GasLink to access the territory for pre-construction work.

But tensions smoldered in the months that followed, and were re-ignited with the Dec. 20 publication of the Guardian article, and the court injunction granted on Dec. 31

Also citing public safety concerns, the RCMP set up a blockade along the forest road on Jan. 13 and have restricted access to the area, prompting complaints from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. In the weeks since, the Wet’suwet’en community says it has felt under siege.

The RCMP initially denied that it was surveilling Wet’suwet’en camps by air ⁠— until photo evidence surfaced, as reported by Vice. Over the course of several days, community members posted reports on social media of large numbers of police staging in towns near the service road.

Michael Toledano@M_Tol

RCMP helicopter again circling @UnistotenCamp and Gidimt’en Checkpoint this morning. Photographed here over the Wedzin Kwa river and the bunkhouse.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Then, on Friday night, a Gidimt’en Clan elder was arrested and released without being charged after she tried to pass the police blockade without giving RCMP her ID. Carmen Nikal, 73, has been an adopted member of the Gidim’ten Clan’s Cas Yex house for four decades, Gidimt’en Clan said.

“Good faith discussions between the Wet’suwet’en and the Province cannot occur while we are under duress, and while our families and guests face the threat of police violence,” the clan said in a press release.

In a tweet Tuesday, Smogelgem ⁠said “it feels like reconciliation is being brutally killed here in Wet’suwet’en territory.”


RCMP harassment and build up continues while I sit in talks with the Province. There are a lot of sceptics in the room. There are good reasons for that. The have survived the “Rules of Law” since contact and have become

“But out on the territory, people are strong and gaining strength every single day from being on the land,” she said.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of strength.” SOURCE

Complaints commission told RCMP broad exclusion zones ‘impermissible’ a year ago

RCMP has yet to respond to nearly year-old report critiquing unlawful conduct with Indigenous Peoples

Image result for Complaints commission told RCMP broad exclusion zones ‘impermissible’ a year ago

The RCMP has yet to respond to a nearly year-old report that criticizes the use of broad exclusion zones and makes multiple recommendations for the force in light of unlawful police conduct with Indigenous land defenders.

This revelation was made in a letter from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, an independent organization that deals with public complaints about the RCMP.

Chairperson Michelaine Lahaie wrote the letter in response to a complaint about the RCMP checkpoint and exclusion zone in northwestern B.C., established as part of a police operation on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory to clear a service road for pipeline company Coastal GasLink.

“It’s suspicious to me that RCMP and government would claim to have met our conditions without talking to our hereditary chiefs.”

The checkpoint and exclusion zone were criticized as overly broad, arbitrarily enforced, and infringing on individual liberties in the complaint submitted by the BC Civil Liberties Association, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

“I also consider the issues raised in your correspondence to be of significant public interest,” wrote Lahaie.

She then explained she was not undertaking a public interest investigation because of a similar investigation into RCMP conduct in New Brunswick during the 2013 enforcement of an injunction against a blockade by Elsipogtog First Nation members and supporters opposed to shale gas extraction.

That investigation resulted in a 116-page report with 12 recommendations for the police, “particularly with regard to Indigenous-led protests,” wrote Lahaie.

The CRCC sent its report to the RCMP in March 2019. The report has not been made public because the police have yet to respond.

In that report, according to Lahaie, the commission found the following:

  • the RCMP had no legal authority to require individuals to produce identification at stop checks,
  • the RCMP had no legal authority to engage in “general inquisition” of individuals at stop checks,
  • the RCMP had no legal authority to conduct routine physical searches,
  • the RCMP could justify restrictions on movement only “in specific, limited circumstances,” and
  • the RCMP can establish “buffer zones” only within “the parameters detailed by the courts” — anything “outside of these bounds is impermissible in a free and democratic society.”

Lahaie also said the commission recommended that RCMP members receive training in “Indigenous cultural matters and sensitivity to Indigenous ceremonies and sacred items.”

Impeding Wet’suwet’en on their own territory

“We have been prevented from accessing our territory,” said Molly Wickham at a press conference today. Wickham is a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en clan who holds the traditional Wet’suwet’en name Sleydo’.

“I’ve been prevented from accessing my civic residence for a period of time, criminalized as Wet’suwet’en while non-Wet’suwet’en were allowed access to our territory.”

“It is essential to the national interest that police behaviour be corrected.”

Wickham noted that although the exclusion zone has been removed, “people need to be aware the RCMP continue to target Wet’suwet’en people” and “continue to unlawfully arrest and detain people on our territory. One person yesterday was arrested and detained for getting firewood for the camp.”

“The RCMP have clearly not yet vacated or officially engaged with our hereditary chiefs and governance. It’s suspicious to me that RCMP and government would claim to have met our conditions without talking to our hereditary chiefs. It seems like a media strategy.”

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have called for the withdrawal of the RCMP and Coastal GasLink personnel from their territory as a precondition for a meeting with Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

‘Unacceptable’ that police have not responded to report

“The report is absolutely explosive. It’s shocking and shameful,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, at the press conference.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a law professor at the University of British Columbia and director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, agreed.

It is “troubling on a number of fronts,” she said. “It is essential to the national interest that police behaviour be corrected, to protect the rights of First Nations people.”

“It is unacceptable that a First Nations person who makes a complaint has to wait seven or eight years for a response. It is not meaningful, it is not timely, it is not appropriate.”

The police have “a long and very troubled history” with First Nations, said Turpel-Lafond, describing the period of residential schools when children were taken from their parents, who would be arrested if they protested.

The RCMP was established by Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, to control and remove Indigenous Peoples from their land. Macdonald was inspired by the Royal Irish Constabulary, a paramilitary police force used by Britain against the Irish. SOURCE

Stop work on Coastal GasLink to allow meaningful dialogue on B.C. pipeline project, says Indigenous leader

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they will not meet unless the company and RCMP leave their territory

Native leaders are requesting work on the pipeline near Houston, B.C., stop for three to six months, so government leaders and hereditary chiefs can come to the table and have meaningful dialogue. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

A B.C. Indigenous leader says the prime minister needs to immediately come to the table with Indigenous leaders who oppose the construction of a pipeline in northern B.C. and the project should be halted while conversations take place.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is opposed by the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, has mobilized both Indigenous and non-Indigenous protesters across the country to blockade ports, railways and roads in solidarity.

“People are at the end of their rope,” said Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Wednesday on The Early Edition.

“The government hasn’t bothered to take First Nations very seriously on these issues. People across the country are acting out on this,” she added.

Sayers said the situation has become a national crisis and it is critical that Ottawa and Indigenous leaders come together now.

She suggested a three to six month moratorium on pipeline construction while conversations take place.

A Wet’suwet’en supporter blocks an intersection in Vancouver on Feb. 10. (CBC/Maggie MacPherson)


In the House of Commons Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Canadians to be patient with his government.

“Finding a solution will not be simple. It will take determination, hard work and co-operation,” Trudeau said. “We are creating a space for peaceful honest dialogue with willing partners … We need Canadians to show both resolve and collaboration. Everyone has a stake in getting this right.”

Sayers said the prime minister’s words are not enough.

“He could take time out of his busy schedule to begin the conversations,” she said. “He’s making space, but there is not a lot more of a commitment than that.”

A battle between the hereditary chiefs of a B.C. First Nation and a company planning to build a natural gas pipeline has mobilized people across the country to show their support for the chiefs by blocking ports, railways and city intersections. (Farrah Merali/CBC)


Former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh said he does not support stopping work on the pipeline.

“It establishes a precedent that you can bring the whole country to its knees and then have a moratorium. I think that’s a problem for a civilized society.” said Dosanjh.

He said if a moratorium is put on the project it could encourage other groups to erect blockades over future issues that do not concern First Nations.

“Forget these issues, imagine other issues,” said Dosanjh. “If other Canadians begin to do the same thing, are we going to accept it?”

On Wednesday, Trudeau reiterated to reporters on Parliament Hill his government is working hard to resolve the Indigenous blockades that have led to hundreds of layoffs at CN Rail. The prime minister has said his government is committed to using dialogue instead of force.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have said they will not meet with Ottawa or Victoria unless the RCMP and Coastal GasLink leave their territory. SOURCE



Wet’suwet’en: Rule of Law?

Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief Na’moks stands beside Paul Manly at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (Submitted photo)

Paul Manly MP, Green Party

On Saturday Feb. 8th I was invited to speak at a local rally in support of the Wet’suwet’en people. I was grateful for the opportunity because the situation in Wet’suwet’en territory is a complex one. Too often important parts of the story get lost in the public debate. I did my best to to highlight some important points that are not well understood, particularly by those who are citing the “rule of law”as justification for the injunction enforcement that has taken place, and the arrests and removals that were a part of that.

Wet’suwet’en: An Open Letter to Justin Trudeau and John Horgan (02/01/20)

Wet’suwet’en: Pipelines, Politics and UNDRIP (01/26/20)


Three weeks ago I went to Wet’suwet’en territory, and I traveled with Chief Na’Moks for two days. I listened to him for two days about the situation, what was happening in the Wet’suwet’en territory. I also met with the Smithers detachment commander of the RCMP, and the liaison officers there. They weren’t involved in this injunction enforcement. They’re connected to the community. They’re not necessarily happy about this political failure that the RCMP is having to deal with. I also met with the detachment commander at the Community Industry Safety Office, which is a police station in the middle of nowhere. Thirty kilometres off the highway, a series of Atco trailers and storage facilities. The police in there, the detachment commander there, is rotated in every week, and the RCMP are rotated in every week. And they have no connection to Wet’suwet’en territory. They have no connection to the people there. They’re also not happy with having to deal with the political failure of our prime minister and our premier.

This is a political failure. When I met with Chief Na’Moks one of the things that he told me was that they had proposed an alternate route for Coastal GasLink and when you read the injunction it recognizes that the Wet’suwet’en people had asked Coastal GasLink to take another route, and they proposed another route, and Coastal GasLink said no it’s too expensive we’re not going to go that way we’re going to go the way we want to go. And so they drove their pipeline through pristine territory, running right through the historic Kweese trail. This trail is thousands of years old, this trail has burial grounds on it, this trail has archaeological sites on it, this is where they do their cultural training for their young people, this is where they do their hunting and their trapping and their berry picking. This is where they built a healing centre, the Uni’stot’en healing centre, which is being attacked today. This is their territory, and these blockades that they have set up, they are asserting their sovereignty over their territory.

I want to talk a minute about the rule of law because we’ve heard this from the premier, about the rule of law and court injunction from the you know the colonial court system. The Wet’suwet’en have their law, they have the hereditary law. And in 1997 in the Delgamuukw decision the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the hereditary system and their laws. In that Supreme Court case it was the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and the Gitxsan that took this case forward. There was not one elected band council member or chief from the colonial imposed Indian Act system. This court decision, the plaintiff in this Court decision, were the hereditary chiefs, that was who was represented and who was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. This was affirmed in the Tsilhqot’in decision. That it is the people who bring the case forward, it’s the hereditary system, that determines the land and title rights of First Nations. This land was never signed over. It was never surrendered. This is Wet’suwet’en territory and they are asserting rights to their sovereignty here.

I want to tell you that we cannot blame anybody who signed onto these these agreements with these gas companies, because in all of these First Nations, in these reservation systems, the band councils that are part of the Indian Act system, they are dealing with poverty. They’ve been struggling with poverty since colonization. And they’re given a choice, this pipeline’s going through anyway, do you want the money or not? And we’ve heard with the Teck Resources mine, this huge oil sands project, the largest oil sands project that’s being proposed in Alberta right now, that First Nations have signed onto that. I heard a chief on CBC say they’re going to do it anyway, the regulator has never turned down one of these projects. So this isn’t consent, they are conceding, they are conceding this is not consent. When you have communities in poverty and, you know, take the money or don’t take the money. I can’t blame the Haisla either, the Kitamaat people, they’re the ones with the LNG facility going onto their territory. their land has been poisoned by Alcan. The Kitimat River was poisoned by the smelter there, their ooligan run is destroyed. Their salmon run is destroyed. The harbour, the Douglas channel, the end of the Douglas channel is poisoned. People have cancer in that community they need economic prosperity and they see that LNG is coming and it’s going to be there or it’s going be somewhere else if do you want the money or not? That’s their choice because they’re ramming this stuff through.

I want to talk for a second about the economics of this situation because we’re sold a bill of goods on this. We’re told that this is good for the economy, we’re told that this is good for the environment. I meet with people in the House of Commons, I’ll meet with any lobbyists, I won’t go to their receptions and drink their wine, but I met with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers this week and had a nice little debate with them in my office. Talked about the economics of this situation, they’re talking about about LNG replacing coal, and that it’s gonna be a transition fuel, and by the end of my argument with them they conceded that LNG has as much of a greenhouse gas footprint as coal does. When you take it from the fracking, and the leaking of fracking, all the way to when you turn on your stove and you release a little methane before it lights up. That is damaging our climate as much as coal burning coal for electricity is. Methane is 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas in the first 15 years it’s released and in 100 years is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gases CO2. It is a climate killer, it is not a solution. And in my little debate with the Canadian Association for Petroleum Producers they admitted that. I wish I had it on video.

I delivered letters to Justin Trudeau, and I sent a letter to John Horgan. I told them that the RCMP should stand down, that we shouldn’t be pushing this project through. And Justin Trudeau said this is a provincial matter It’s not our problem. I said you’re responsible for the relationship with indigenous people, it’s a nation to nation negotiation. British Columbia is not a nation. Canada is a nation and they need to be talking to the Wet’suwet’en people.

I want to mention a couple of other things about this LNG nonsense. They say that it’s going to pay for hospitals and schools and whatnot. You know ten years ago we got 1.2 billion dollars in revenue from natural gas in this province. You know much we got last year? 108 million. And that is in spite the fact that production ramped up by 70 percent, so almost double the production, but we’re getting ten percent of the royalties. Why that is? Because they’re giving royalty breaks to the gas frackers because they’re horizontal drilling. All the fracking is horizontal drilling! They’re giving the resource away. The LNG plant, which is five foreign multinationals, have 5.4 billion dollars in tax breaks, including not paying the carbon tax, not paying PST, they’re getting power from the Site C damn, which is another incident where First Nations, some of them signed on to an agreement because they conceded. Fourteen of them opposed the project, twelve of them ended up signing on because that was their only choice, was to get money. Two of those nations are still fighting in court, the West Moberly and the Prophet River. That dam is being built to provide hydropower to the fracking fields and to the LNG plant. The federal government has put $250 million dollars into LNG Canada, five foreign multinationals, three of them are state-owned corporations from China, Korea, Malaysia, giving our resources away, giving them huge tax breaks, building a damaging dam and making ratepayers like you and me pay for it so that these folks can get to our resources for nothing.

We are being ripped off, the First Nations people are having their rights trampled over this. We’re talking about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, what does that mean? What does it mean? Where is the respectful relationship here? This is… there are so many layers to this, that need to be undone. I got into a 10 minute debate on this because in December, I brought up a question of what was the government’s response to the UN Human Rights office about the Site C damn. The UN has asked that the Site C damn be stopped. Stop construction until you have informed consent from the First Nations involved and they have not stopped. Since then the UN has written again and asked that the Coastal GasLink project be stopped until there’s informed consent. And that the Trans Mountain be stopped until there’s informed consent.

I got my ten minutes of debate in Parliament when I first got back after being up in Wet’suwet’en territory. I also asked the question on Thursday, where is this government on the nation to nation negotiation? Why don’t they respect the rule of law? Why not?

This whole situation is disgusting. We stand in solidarity and support the Wet’suwet’en people, and all of those communities that are being destroyed in the fracking fields in northeastern British Columbia and those communities that are standing against the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline. We’ve got to keep on fighting folks. They are on the front line of this climate battle. They are on the front line of the defending the rights of Indigenous people. They are on the front line of the future of our children and grandchildren, and the future of their children and grandchildren. Thank you.  SOURCE

Meeting between Trudeau and cabinet ministers to discuss how to handle anti-pipeline protest underway

Prime Minister is foregoing today’s planned trip to Barbados

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Incident Response Group will talk about how to handle the protests against a natural gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia. (Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is meeting with an emergency group Monday to discuss anti-pipeline blockades that have shut down swaths of the country’s train system.

Trudeau says the Incident Response Group will talk about how to handle the protests against a natural gas pipeline that crosses Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are opposed to the project.

The group was described upon its inception in 2018 as a “dedicated, emergency committee that will convene in the event of a national crisis or during incidents elsewhere that have major implications for Canada.”

Doug Ford asks for ‘immediate action’

Trudeau is foregoing today’s planned trip to Barbados, where he was slated to meet with Caribbean leaders to campaign for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council.

He faced criticism last week over his presence in Africa and Europe as the protests were beginning, so Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will represent Canada in Trudeau’s place.

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford spoke with Trudeau late Sunday and issued a statement urging the federal government to take action.

“Premier Ford asked the prime minister to take immediate action and provide detail on a clear plan to ensure an end to this national issue,” the statement read.

Scheer wants end to ‘illegal blockades’

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said last week that Trudeau should tell Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to use his authority under the RCMP Act to end what he called the “illegal blockades.”

But Trudeau shot back, arguing that Canada is not a country “where politicians get to tell the police what to do in operational matters.”

A protester stands between Mohawk Warrior Society flags at a rail blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., on Sunday. The protest is in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)


Thus far, the public-facing part of Trudeau’s plan appears to centre on discussions and negotiations, rather than police action.

Carolyn Bennett, the minister for Crown-Indigenous relations, is due to meet today with her British Columbia counterpart, Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser. Bennett is also ready to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, should they give the go-ahead.

‘Did we learn from Ipperwash?’

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller met with Mohawk Nation representatives for hours on Saturday and said they made “modest progress.” The focus of their talks, he said, was on the pipeline in northern B.C. rather than the blockade on Tyendinaga territory near Belleville, Ont., which was at that point in its 10th day.

In an appearance on CTV’s political show Question Period, Miller pointed to the Oka and Ipperwash crises as reasons why dialogue is preferable to police intervention.

A police officer died during a police raid in 1990 when Mohawks at the Kahnawake reserve south of Montreal blocked the Mercier Bridge, which became the Oka crisis. Five years later at Ipperwash, Ont., one man was killed during a standoff over a land claim by Chippewa protesters outside a provincial park.

“Thirty years ago, police moved in in Kanesatake and someone died,” Miller said. “And did we learn from that? Did we learn from Ipperwash?”

But while Ontario Provincial Police have so far declined to enforce injunctions and remove protesters from that blockade, RCMP in B.C. have made more than two dozen arrests while enforcing similar injunctions near worksites for the pipeline at the centre of the dispute. SOURCE


RCMP arrests another 7 as Wet’suwet’en efforts wrap up

Exclusion zone will be lifted pending word from Coastal GasLink, Mounties say

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with numerous Indigenous communities. But the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation opposes the pipeline project through its traditional territories. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

CMP say they wrapped up enforcement of a court order in the traditional territory of a northern B.C. First Nation on Monday, after arresting another seven people who were blocking a service road needed for construction of a natural gas pipeline.

Mounties arrested seven people for breach of the injunction and on Monday evening said — once Coastal GasLink confirms that it can access the Morice West Forest Service Road and its infrastructure — they plan to lift a exclusion zone along the logging road.

“I am very satisfied that this operation was conducted safely and there were no injuries sustained by anyone,” Chief RCMP Supt. David Attfield said in a news release.

“This was a very challenging situation, and I am proud of the professionalism displayed by our members.”

Earlier in the day, police moved into Unist’ot’en, where the Wet’suwet’en have, for more than a decade, been re-establishing a presence in what began as an effort to block proposed energy projects through the area.

People at the site, including journalists, provided updates on Twitter and Facebook on Monday, reporting that RCMP arrived with dogs, tactical members of the force and that some police had been dropped on the backside of the checkpoint via helicopter.

In one of the livestreams posted by the Unist’ot’en, police were heard reading the injunction to a group of women standing in the road — but the women didn’t acknowledge the RCMP presence and instead continued drumming and singing in a circle.

Among those arrested Monday were Karla Tait, the director of clinical programming for the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, and Freda Huson, longtime spokesperson for Unist’ot’en and one of the named efendants in the injunction brought forward by Coastal GasLink.

Tensions are rising in Wet’suwet’en territory where the RCMP are following through on an injunction and blocking access to an area where supporters of the hereditary chiefs are trying to prevent the construction of a major natural gas pipeline. 2:22

The Wet’suwet’en set up an access checkpoint at Unist’ot’en in 2009, controlling who could come into the area. But that checkpoint has since grown, and the area has morphed into a permanent settlement that includes a healing centre.

It’s unclear how many people are currently staying in Unist’ot’en. The RCMP said in an email to CBC News on Sunday it would be taking action there on Monday as part of the injunction enforcement.

Acts of civil disobedience and solidarity gatherings have been taking place across the country to show support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who maintain no pipelines can be built through their territory without their consent.

Supporter camp growing

The chiefs and their supporters have defied the injunction, asserting Wet’suwet’en law instead and demanding that the province and federal government come to the table to sort out their rights and title to the territory.

In recent days, their access to that territory has been shrinking.

The hereditary chiefs and their supporters have been slowly pushed farther out of the area as police move, camp by camp, down the Morice West Forest Service Road.

As of Sunday, police were not allowing people past the four-kilometre mark on the road, saying that would be the boundary of an expanded exclusion zone that had previously been applied at the 27-kilometre mark.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Kaliset at the four-kilometre police checkpoint on the Morice West Forest Service Road on Sunday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“You know, I never ever thought that we as We’tsuwet’en people would ever be faced with such a crisis as we’re facing today,” hereditary chief Kaliset told CBC News on Sunday while being kept out of the territory at the police roadblock.

“Us elders, we’ve sat back and we’ve watched — we support our young people with the work that they’re doing. Today we’re speaking out.”

On Monday morning, hereditary chief Smogelgem said police had once again shifted their checkpoint to the 27-kilometre mark.

The $6-billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline has received approval from the province, and 20 First Nations band councils have signed agreements in support of the project, including five of the six band councils in the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

First Nations that signed agreements with the company stand to benefit through a number of avenues — with direct cash payments at different stages of the project’s lifespan, contracting and employment opportunities, and other agreed upon conditions.

However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say those band councils are only responsible for the territory within their individual reserves because their authority comes only from the Indian Act. The hereditary chiefs — leaders in place before the Indian Act — assert authority over 22,000 square kilometres of the nation’s traditional territory, an area recognized as unceded by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1997 decision.

Not everyone within the Wet’suwet’en nation is standing behind the chiefs, however.

Bonnie George is a Wet’suwet’en woman who previously worked with Coastal GasLink. She told CBC News she believes the conflict has become “blown way out of proportion.”

She stressed there are Wet’suwet’en people who want the project to go ahead and have taken jobs with the project. She also said that the nation is “hurting terribly” through this conflict and welcomed those who are taking action in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs “to refocus that energy on helping us try to live in harmony.”

Construction elsewhere

Construction continues along the length of the project at other sections, but Coastal GasLink says it can only put off getting back into the area subject to the injunction for so long before construction timelines are disrupted.

For weeks the company has not been able to move freely along the forest service road at the geographic centre of this conflict.

The Morice West Forest Service Road leads into the heart of Wet’suwet’en territory, about 300 kilometres west of Prince George. It is also the only access road for workers to build the Coastal GasLink pipeline through the area.

Weeks after the injunction decision came out on Dec. 31 it became increasingly clear that those involved in the dispute were at an impasse.

Early Thursday morning, police began the first wave of arrests on the road, at a camp set-up at the 39-kilometre mark.

After that, enforcement took place at the 44-kilometre Gidimt’en checkpoint.

The next day, people were cleared from an area established as a warming centre and gathering space at the 27-kilometre mark.

Between Thursday and Monday, police arrested a total of 28 people as they worked to gain control over the area to ensure Coastal GasLink contractors could clear the road of obstructions from Houston past Unist’ot’en.

Several of those arrested were scheduled to make court appearances on Monday.

Police continue to investigate alleged criminal acts on the territory, including mischief and setting traps likely to cause bodily harm.



One of the hundreds of protesters who marched in Vancouver on Monday. Small protests have emerged across Canada in support of the Wet’suwet’ens fight against a gas pipeline. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Wet’suwet’en RCMP standoff sparks national protests
Hundreds rally in Metro Vancouver and Victoria in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en
RCMP breach final Wet’suwet’en camp in the path of Coastal GasLink pipeline

B.C. failed to consider links between ‘man camps,’ violence against Indigenous women, Wet’suwet’en argue

A formal request for judicial review submitted with the B.C. Supreme Court argues B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office extended permit for Coastal GasLink pipeline without considering the findings of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Unist'ot'en camp red dresses MMIWG

A rare pink sunrise at the Unist’ot’en Healing centre, as police prepare for their second day of injunction enforcement near Houston, B.C. on Friday Feb. 7. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are requesting a judicial review of a decision made by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office to extend the environmental certificate for the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The request, filed Feb. 3, argues an extension should not have been granted in light of more than 50 instances of non-compliance with the conditions of Coastal GasLink permits and in light of the findings of Canada’s National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

The inquiry found there is “substantial evidence” that natural resource projects increase violence against Indigenous women and children and two-spirit individuals.

A final report released from the National Inquiry Committee in June found “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.”

“Increased crime levels, including drug- and alcohol-related offences, sexual offences, and domestic and ‘gang’ violence, have been linked to ‘boom town’ and other resource development contexts. … There is an urgent need to consider the safety of Indigenous women consistently in all stages of project planning,” the report states.

Concerns about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are on visible display at the Unist’ot’en camp, located along the intended route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, where for the past months red dresses — symbols of the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women and girls — hang on signposts or dangle in the air from lines of suspended wire.

Karla Tait, psychologist and director of clinical services at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, said the idea came about when the Wet’suwet’en learned of a proposed 400-person worker camp planned for just 13 kilometres from the healing centre.

“We put a call out for red dresses to be sent here, inviting anyone to send red dresses in honour of any missing and murdered Indigenous women in their lives and to help us raise awareness and visibility as Coastal GasLink workers were traveling into our territory and doing pre-construction work,” Tait, who is a Unist’ot’en house member, told The Narwhal.

red dress Wet'suwet'en

Red dresses, signifying missing and murdered Indigenous women, hang near Unist’ot’en camp in Wet’suwet’en territory. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

The RCMP are currently enforcing a court injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en and supporters occupying cultural camps in areas of Wet’suwet’en traditional territory that prevent work along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en nation, argue the pipeline was permitted without their consent as legal custodians of the nation’s territory under Wet’suwet’en law and as recognized by Canada’s Supreme Court in a 1997 ruling known as the Delgamuukw decision.

Chiefs issued an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink workers in early January and after weeks of tense waiting, RCMP began arresting individuals within a designated exclusion zone, which extends from an RCMP checkpoint to beyond the Unist’ot’en camp, on Feb. 6.

Huson Tait Unist'ot'en

Freda Huson, left, her sister Brenda Michell, centre, and her niece Karla Tait, right, head inside after offering songs and prayer outside the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre on Thursday Feb. 6. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

Unist'ot'en camp helicopter Wet'suwet'en RCMP

A helicopter takes off after Freda Huson refused to talk to police at the Unist’ot’en camp on Saturday Feb. 8. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

RCMP officers arrived at the Unist’ot’en camp, located at the 66-kilometre mark along the Morice River Forest Road, on Saturday morning following two days of arrests while dismantling Wet’suwet’en camps along the pipeline route.

Wet’suwet’en at the camp have refused to comply with an RCMP request to surrender.

Unist’ot’en camp founder and spokesperson, Tsake’ze Howilhkat, who also goes by Freda Huson, said the camp is located 66 kilometres from the infamous Highway of Tears, notorious for its connection to the disappearance and murder of Indigenous women in B.C., many of whom she knew personally.

“Some of them are family, extended family, cousins and children. The latest one was our cousin’s daughter-in-law, left a one-year-old baby behind,” Huson told The Narwhal.

She recounted the experience of being on a search party for Frances Brown, who went missing while mushroom picking with her partner. The RCMP called off their search after five days.

“I, with many others, was out there for 35 to 37 days, every day from seven in the morning until seven at night we searched,” Huson said. “We were popping Tylenol because our bodies hurt so bad but we kept going out every day searching and we didn’t find any clues.”

Huson said she is angry the RCMP will deploy enormous resources to enforce an injunction against Indigenous people defending their territory but not to investigate the murder of Indigenous women or locate missing women or their remains.

“Maybe some of them are out here, somewhere,” Huson said of the area surrounding the Unist’ot’en camp. “Because of lot of them went missing and they could have easily went on these back roads. A lot of this territory was hardly used, so they could have been brought out here somewhere.”

There are 14 work camps planned to support the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Nine are already in operation, with additional camps expected to be built in 2020, according to a spokesperson with TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, which owns the pipeline.

Freda Huson

Chief Howilhkat, Freda Huson, and her sister Brenda Michell stand in ceremony while she waits for police to enforce Coastal GasLink’s injunction at Unist’ot’en Healing Centre near Houston, B.C. on Saturday Feb. 8. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

Coastal GasLink permit extended without due process: lawyer

Dinï ze’ Smogelgem, Hereditary Chief of the Laksamshu (Fireweed and Owl) clan said the Wet’suwet’en’s application for judicial review of Coastal GasLink certificate extension also points out the connection between the project and threats to women.

“My cousins are listed among the murdered and missing women and girls,” he said in a statement announcing the case. “B.C. must not be allowed to bend the rules to facilitate operations that are a threat to the safety of Wet’suwet’en women.”

Caily DiPuma, legal counsel for the Wet’suwet’en with Woodward and Co., said the request for judicial review is about questioning the integrity of the environmental assessment process.

Coastal GasLink has not substantially started construction within the five years of its environmental certificate, granted in 2014, as is mandated in the permit. The company requested the Environmental Assessment Office grant a permit extension.

When considering a permit extension, the office is required to consider new significant and adverse impacts of the project and consider a proponent’s compliance in the five years in which they’ve been operating, DiPuma told The Narwhal.

“The EAO didn’t do either of those things properly,” she said.

“We know there is a correlation between camps of workers, what are called ‘man camps,’ and violence against Indigenous girls and women and queer people,” DiPuma said, adding that the Calls to Action from the National Inquiry direct decision-makers “like the EAO to undertake an assessment of gender-based harms for these kinds of projects.” Similar calls to action are directed at industry.

Man camp 9a Coastal GasLink Wet'suwet'en

A canvas tent near the Coastal GasLink work camp 9A on Jan. 5. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

Despite this, the Environmental Assessment Office did not properly conduct an assessment of risks to Indigenous women from the Coastal GasLink project when extending its permits, DiPuma said.

“The EAO said Coastal GasLink would be prepared to consider doing so in the future. So, instead of creating a legally binding requirement for them to consider these harms, they took industry at its word that it would voluntarily do so at some point in the future.”

Coastal GasLink has also been found out of compliance with the conditions of its environmental certificate in more than 50 instances, according to the Environmental Assessment Office’s compliance program, including by restricting access to traplines and failing to adequately dispose of camp garbage.

Despite these many instances of non-compliance, the Environmental Assessment Office decided the company’s permit should be extended, DiPuma said.

“They haven’t explained to the public or my client why that should be.”

Red dresses sentinel as RCMP raid looms

The Unist’ot’en healing centre currently houses the remaining Wet’suwet’en members and supporters facing arrest by the RCMP.

The $2 million Unist’ot’en healing centre, which has received $400,000 from B.C.’s First Nations Health Authority to run land-based trauma and addictions treatment programs, is designed to provide services to vulnerable individuals, including youth in trauma treatment programs.

Tait said the red dresses hanging around the centre — some of which bear the initials of women people in the camp have lost — will act as a confrontation to the RCMP officers performing arrests.

“It’s a chance for the RCMP to confront those women, in a way, and be held to account on their failure to protect their safety,” Tait said.

But, she added, it’s also an opportunity for these lost and voiceless women to stand in solidarity with their community and family.

Red dress unist'ot'en MMIWG

A red dress, signifying missing and murdered Indigenous women, hangs on the bridge to Unist’ot’en camp. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

“We have a line of red dresses across the bridge because we think it’s a very powerful statement and it’s an invitation to the spirits of those women to come and stand and face the RCMP who are failing to seek justice on their behalf, who failed to protect their safety by being complicit in this epidemic that our communities are facing.”

Tait, who faces imminent arrest herself, said she believes women have a particular responsibility to protect Wet’suwet’en territory.

“We are a matrilineal culture, so our women are our strength. The women make the decisions about the land, because we know our children depend on the land, they inherit our territory after we’re gone and that’s all through the mother’s line. So it really feels like it’s a deep responsibility for us as women to make sure there’s territory intact, there’s a safer future for our children that are coming and that these lands will remain here and remain a sanctuary for our people.”

Huston Michell Tait Unist'ot'en RCMP arrests

Freda Huson, right, looks at pictures of the early morning arrests at the 39-kilometre camp, with her sister Brenda Michell, left, and niece, Karla Tait, centre, at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre on Thursday Feb. 6. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

The Wet’suwet’en application for a judicial review was served to Kevin Jardine, associate deputy minister of the environment and the executive director of the Environmental Assessment Office, as well as Coastal GasLink.

DiPuma said her office has yet to hear back from the substantive parties.

“They’ve got some time to consider their position on this. It’s up to them to determine if they reconsider the permit or if they want to go to court.” SOURCE