Vaughn Palmer: Veil of secrecy over Wet’suwet’en deal extends to elected chiefs

VICTORIA — New Democrats remain confident that the agreement with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs is in good hands, though one of the elected chiefs has yet to even see a copy.Still on the outs is

He’s one of several elected leaders who put out a statement last week complaining that they had been left out of the talks among hereditary chiefs and the federal and provincial governments.George says he’s still being kept in the dark by the hereditary chiefs, before a meeting scheduled for the end of this week.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader Chief Woos, centre, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser arrive to speak to reporters in Smithers on March 1. JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS 

“I’ve seen part of it that got leaked out,” George told host Carol Off on CBC’s As it Happens, Monday. “But I’m not sure if it’s the right one. They’re keeping it confidential until our meeting on Friday.”

The B.C. minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, Scott Fraser, helped negotiate the agreement with his federal counterpart, Carolyn Bennett.

But he’s refused to discuss the contents, saying it was negotiated in camera and it is up to the Wet’suwet’en chiefs to share it with their people.Now it turns out that a prominent Wet’suwet’en leader can’t see a copy either.Is the NDP government comfortable with that?“The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs committed to bringing the proposal to all Wet’suwet’en clan members through their Wet’suwet’en governance process,” said the reply Tuesday from Fraser’s ministry.

“They have advised us that they are engaged in those conversations with their clans, and have held several community meetings to date.”

But in any event, as the ministry made it clear, Fraser does not regard himself as accountable for the ratification process.“It is our expectation that any decision on the proposed arrangement will be based on a legitimate process consistent with Wet’suwet’en laws and governance systems, that is recognized by Wet’suwet’en peoples as representing their nation.“The chiefs are accountable for that ratification process and we do not intend to interfere,” said the ministry in its statement.

Chief George is rightly suspicious of the hereditary chiefs who negotiated the agreement. He is one of the founders of the First Nations LNG Alliance and a strong supporter of the Coastal GasLink project (“of course, I do”) having negotiated a generous benefit sharing agreement with the company.

Most of the hereditary chiefs oppose the pipeline. Nor did the federal and provincial governments oblige them to give up their opposition as part of the one-sided negotiations that led to the agreement.“I don’t think they’re representing the best interests of our people,” said George when asked about the hereditary chiefs. “I think the province and the federal government were wrong to go in there without us elected chiefs.”Now that the process of consulting the Wet’suwet’en people is underway, how does the ministry feel about the continued exclusion of elected leaders like George?“This question would be better directed to the hereditary chiefs,” said the statement. “We are not aware of the specifics of this circumstance. As we understand it, not all clan meetings have yet occurred.

The hereditary chiefs are working to have full conversations and dialogue at their clan meetings, the ministry maintains. “It is our expectation that that process will include elected chiefs. “George is approaching Friday’s meeting without knowing what to expect, both in terms of the contents of the agreement and the attitude of the hereditary chiefs.“I’m not sure of the position of the hereditary chiefs until I start meeting with them and where their stance is going to be,” he told the CBC.“My position is that I’m not signing no title and rights agreement. We need to figure out our governance structure within the hereditary chief system first and foremost. All these protests started because of our governance system. So it must end with our governance system also.”

Still, he tries to remain optimistic. “If we can come together and create a governance system and work together, I think that’s the only silver lining that can come out of this.”Time is running out. In hailing the agreement as a major step forward last week, Fraser said he’d been assured by the hereditary chiefs that the ratification could be concluded in two weeks — meaning by this weekend.But when I asked if that were still the date for completing the process, his ministry hedged.“It was not a hard and fast deadline,” said the statement. “We respect that this is a very important community conversation, and intend to be responsive to the ratification process of the hereditary chiefs, however long it takes.”

Officially, the federal and provincial governments remain optimistic about ratification. But even there, the statement from the B.C. ministry hedged slightly.“If the proposal is ratified by the Wet’suwet’en clan members, we would proceed with the negotiation process, as agreed, on how to implement rights and title and how we will work together as the three orders of government going forward.“Another important piece of this work would be consultation with stakeholders and the public.”Yes, the public.

If and when the deal has been reviewed and ratified by the Wet’suwet’en people — “however long it takes” — the federal and provincial governments plan to make the terms public.

Only then will British Columbians discover what Fraser negotiated and signed on their behalf. SOURCE

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FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE WET’SUWET’EN’S FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS

Blockades of rail lines, roads, ports and more have been happening across the country in support of the Wet’suwet’en.

Public protest and round dance in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto in support of the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Jason Hargrove

Public pressure is building through mass protests, road, rail and ferry blockades as people across the country are showing their support for the Wet’suwet’en’s right to choose what happens on their unceded ancestral land.

Coastal GasLink (formerly TransCanada) is proposing a 670-kilometre pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat in British Columbia where it would be processed in a new liquefied natural gas plant on the coastal shore. A portion of the pipeline runs through these Indigenous lands.

For years, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have been saying “no” to the Coastal Gaslink (CGL) pipeline project. When the corporation started moving onto the land, the Hereditary Chiefs asked them to leave. In response, the corporation obtained a court injunction and on February 6, armed RCMP officers forcefully removed the Hereditary Chiefs, Wet’suwet’en land defenders, and their supporters from their own land.

Here are five things you should know about the Wet’suwet’en’s fight for their rights:

1. The United Nations recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Canada must too.

The Council of Canadians supports Indigenous sovereignty, including the implementation of the United Nations Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

UNDRIP clarifies the rights of Indigenous Peoples to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent regarding projects that impact their lands and livelihoods. It also clarifies that Indigenous Peoples will not be forcefully removed from their lands. The British Columbia provincial government passed UNDRIP into law in November 2019.

A UN committee has urged the federal government to withdraw the RCMP and immediately suspend work on the pipeline. The RCMP has offered to move its detachment near the Wet’suwet’en camps to Houston, but this is contingent on the Wet’suwet’en allowing CGL to continue to build the pipeline. This is contrary to the eviction notice and would not actually be a removal, as Houston is in Wet’suwet’en territory.

2. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs hold rights and title on ancestral lands that has been recognized by Canadian courts.

Infringing on this right jeopardizes the integrity of how the Canadian and British Columbian governments treat Aboriginal rights and title for the future.

In the 1997 case Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, Canadian courts recognized that the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs hold rights and title over ancestral lands. The Hereditary Chiefs have spent years fighting for this recognition in Canadian courts, and achieving it lays the foundation for their ongoing stewardship of ancestral lands in line with the way their community has done for generations. CGL needs their consent to be able to continue building its natural gas pipeline.

It must also be noted that for 23 years, the Canadian government has failed to reconcile its laws and priorities to respect the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Placing a pipeline on this land would permanently alter the on-the-ground context for the rights and title of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. It violates the principles that the Hereditary Chiefs have successfully fought to have recognized, which they have practiced for generations, and which allow them to continue to care for the land in ways consistent with their traditions. These traditions prioritize the health of the land for the future, which is important in the face of the climate crisis.

3. The authority of Hereditary Chiefs pre-date the authority of Band Councils.

Hereditary Chiefs represent different houses that make up the First Nation as a whole. Their titles are passed down through generations and pre-date colonization. According to the First Nations Drum, “the Wet’suwet’en nation is made up of five clans, and within those, 13 houses. The five hereditary chiefs representing the clans are all opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline running through their territory, while the elected council gave their go-ahead.”

The article goes on to state that, “elected chiefs and council generally hold authority over reserve lands and their infrastructure. Traditional chiefs oversee the territories and hold ceremonial and historical importance to First Nations.” This isn’t a question of taking sides, but of recognizing what the Supreme Court has decided – that it is the Hereditary Chiefs who have jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.

The Indigenous electoral systems came as a result of the section 74 of the Indian Act, which Canada imposed on First Nations. “It was designed to eradicate the hereditary system and create something more recognizable for the western government,” the article adds.

Both Hereditary Chiefs and Elected Councils are working on behalf of their people and hold unique roles. CGL has exploited the differences of opinion related to this project by moving forward without consent from the full community. Using the injunction from British Columbia, CGL would permanently enforce that division and jeopardize the existing mechanisms for Indigenous Peoples to give or refuse consent.

The Wet’suwet’en Chiefs emphasize their right to protect their lands.

“The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have maintained their use and occupancy of their lands and hereditary governance system for thousands of years. Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are the Title Holders and maintain authority and jurisdiction to make decisions on unceded lands.”

4. This is a clear example of corporate capture and how corporations have the power to override fundamental rights.

Government policies are aligned with the interests of Coastal Gaslink, a corporation that will profit from this pipeline as Indigenous rights are sacrificed.

In fact, permanently undercutting the Hereditary Chiefs’ rights and title seems to have been a longstanding corporate goal of Coastal GasLink, in part indicated by the fact that CGL asked local leaders to contract out of those rights for the future. The Canadian government is choosing to hold onto their colonial mandate, mobilizing state violence through the RCMP and corporate interests, instead of aligning government practices to reflect a proper nation-to-nation relationship. Governments – provincial and federal – could choose to honour the Hereditary Chiefs’ right to say “no,” respect that they have refused the pipeline, and shift Canadian legal systems to pave the way for a substantive and just reconciliation.

These events are an example of how governments assume that “Canadian interests” – or, in this case, the interests of a corporation – are prioritized, undercutting Indigenous rights and title, no matter how clearly those rights are recognized within Canadian law.

In addition, the climate crisis means we should be saying no to new pipelines, not allowing oil and gas companies to build them. We must move away from polluting energies, not build new infrastructure to move them. The Council of Canadians has a long history of supporting people and communities that want to protect their land, water and air from polluting extractive industries such as fracked natural gas.

Council of Canadians Campaigners standing in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en

5. Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and their supporters have called for peaceful actions in support of their concerns.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and supporters have asked for disruptive, but peaceful actions because they heighten pressure significantly for policy makers to change their decisions. The level of action makes it clear that people are no longer willing to allow colonial dispossession to take place, and that we support the right of Indigenous Peoples to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, including the ability to say “no.” The historic injustices, including denying these rights, must end, and it will take people coming together to make that happen.

This moment builds on the history of Indigenous resistance to colonial actions. It is inspiring to see people around the world joining the Wet’suwet’en’s call to action. This situation is tense and complex in many ways, but it is also a way to say that ongoing colonization and dispossession can no longer be tolerated.

Ways to add your support:

There are many ways you can get involved and add your support. If you haven’t already, please write to your Member of Parliamentphone your MP, join local solidarity actions, or read the links below to learn more.

Other Resources:

Wet’suwet’en Crisis: Whose Rule of Law? (The Tyee, Feb 14)

The Wet’suwet’en, Aboriginal Title, and the Rule of Law: An Explainer (First Peoples Law, Feb 13)

Industry, government pushed to abolish Aboriginal title at issue in Wet’suwet’en stand-off, docs reveal (The Narwhal, Feb 7)

Wet’suwet’en: Why Are Indigenous Rights Being Defined By An Energy Corporation? (Shiri Pasternak, Yellowhead Institute, Feb 7)

Corporations don’t seem to understand Indigenous jurisdiction (D.T. Cochrane, The Conversation, January 16, 2019)

Unist’ot’en Supporter Toolkit

Meeting of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, federal, provincial governments set after ‘miscommunication’

B.C. government, office of the Wet’suwet’en previously announced meeting was called off

Chief Na’Moks, a spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs, said two days of meetings to discuss title and land rights of the Wet’suwet’en will take place at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en on Thursday afternoon. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

A proposed meeting between the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the federal government and the British Columbia government is set to take place on Thursday, following word that talks for a meeting had fallen through Wednesday afternoon.

In an interview with CBC News, Chief Na’Moks​​, also known as John Ridsdale, said the Office of the Wet’suwet’en received a call Wednesday night from someone representing the federal and B.C. governments saying news that the proposed meeting was cancelled was a miscommunication.

“Miscommunication, I don’t know how that would happen,” said Ridsdale.  “Our executive director was called, and given that message, and no reasoning why it was back on.”

“We’re pleased with having the talks back on, our willingness has always been there.”

Ridsdale, a spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs, said two days of meetings to discuss title and land rights of the Wet’suwet’en will take place at the Office of the Wet’suwet’en in Smithers, B.C., sometime on Thursday afternoon.

Former NDP MP Nathan Cullen confirmed Thursday’s meeting to Radio-Canada’s Philippe Leblanc. Cullen was tasked by B.C. Premier John Horgan with acting as an intermediary between the Wet’suwe’ten hereditary chiefs, the province of B.C., RCMP, Coastal GasLink and others.

Just a few hours earlier, the office of the Wet’suwet’en said both the federal and B.C. governments had declined an invitation from the chiefs, whose opposition to a pipeline through their traditional territory in northwest B.C. has sparked protests and rail blockades across the country.

The office of the B.C. Premier had confirmed in a statement the province has “not been able to come to agreement for a meeting.”

“We had hoped the hereditary chiefs would agree to a period of peace and respect during the talks, which would include encouraging their supporters to remove blockades.”

But the premier’s office said it remained interested in meeting with the hereditary chiefs.

It was not immediately clear who was invited from the federal government. Federal representatives were not immediately available for comment.

Ridsdale said he talked with leaders of the Mohawks of Tyendinaga, who have blocked railways near Belleville, Ont., for several weeks.

“They [the Mohawks] told us that if [they] take a step back then maybe the discussions won’t happen at all,” Ridsdale said.  SOURCE

 

Kahnawake Mohawks defy injunction

Defiant in the face of recent injunctions Kahnawake Mohawks add cement roadblocks at the entrance to the rail line blockade on their territory across the Mercier Bridge from Montreal, Quebec. February 25, 2020. Photograph by Michael Bramadat-Willcock

The Mohawks of Kahnawake have no intention of dismantling a rail blockade on their territory near Montreal despite an injunction issued on Tuesday that one official called a “provocation.”

Defiant yet seemingly calm Kahnawake Mohawks continued to add cement barriers and bring in supplies to the blockade site.

People came and went from the scene of the blockade. Supporters chatted with Peacekeepers – the Kahnawake Mohawk police force – who were on site.

“Another day, another injunction” said one supporter on the ground. Several freight trucks honked in support as they passed by the blockade.

The Kahnawake blockade, which has restricted freight and commuter train traffic between downtown Montreal and the South Shore since early February, is in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the planned Coastal GasLink pipeline that would cut through their traditional territory in northern British Columbia.

“People are still quite clear that they want to continue the blockade in support of the Wet’suwet’en chiefs,” Kenneth Deer, secretary of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, told National Observer in a phone interview.

More Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests sprung up in various locations across Canada on Tuesday, a day after Ontario police moved on a weeks-long blockade by Tyendinaga Mohawks near Belleville that had shut down a major transport route between Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal.

“The whole issue has always been imposition of the will of Canada onto Indigenous peoples and their territory. We have to continue to resist,” Deer said.

Deer said that land is central to the context of conflicts between Indigenous peoples and government in Canada more broadly.

“All of these flashpoints are always about land. It’s our land. It’s our territory. How did all that land become theirs? How did it all become Canada’s?,” Deer said.

“Another day, another injunction” said supporter on the ground at Montreal area blockade. Several freight trucks honked in support as they passed by the blockade.

The prospect of a drawn out confrontation on Mohawk Territory in Quebec brings back painful memories in the province.

The 1990 Oka Crisis, also called the Mohawk Resistance, was a dispute over territory between the Kanesatake Mohawks and the Town of Oka, northwest of Montreal.

Oka planned to develop a golf course and condominiums on land that includes Mohawk burial grounds in an area called the Pines.

The Crisis lasted 78 days, involving Mohawk warriors, the Sûreté du Québec and the Canadian Army. SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay was the lone fatality.

Quebec police moved against several other disruptions on Tuesday, but not in Kahnawake. Injunctions were also issued against protests in Lennoxville in the Eastern Townships region of Quebec and Listuguj, in the Gaspé Peninsula.

Police arrested an estimated 20 people in Lenoxville as they attempted to dismantle a blockade erected on Tuesday morning.

In Listuguj, Mi’gmaq Wet’suwet’en supporters refused to leave after police approached their barricades on a railway line between Quebec and New Brunswick.

Solidarity protests also slowed down traffic during rush hour in Montreal.

Earlier on Tuesday Premier François Legault implied that the Sûreté du Québec provincial police force has been working on a plan to dismantle the barricades but did not provide specifics.

“I trust the Sûreté du Québec to take all steps necessary to act with the Peacekeepers,” Legault said at a Montreal event.

Legault has also stated that some of the Mohawks in Kahnawake are armed and mentioned the Oka Crisis. However no weapons were visible at the site of the blockade and Mohawks categorized the Premier’s statement as inflammatory.

Kahnawake Mohawks stand guard as a man speaks with a Peacekeeper at the entrance to the main rail line blockade on their territory across the Mercier Bridge from Montreal, Quebec. Blockades in Support of Wet’suwet’en have impeded rail movement between Montreal and the South Shore. February 25, 2020. Photograph by Michael Bramadat-willcock

 

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is considering challenging the injunction, and has indicated its own police force has no intention of enforcing it.

“First and foremost, we must make it clear to our own people that this injunction will not be executed on this territory,” Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton said in a statement.

He said it was “truly unfortunate” that Canadian Pacific sought the injunction, which he said “will only add to the problems at hand.”

”History reminds us that the proper approach to addressing issues is through dialogue and discussion – not by sending in police, he said”

The provisional injunction was granted in response to a request from CP Rail by Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Pinsonnault.

Deer said that the injunction came as a surprise to him since he felt that their previous relationship with the railway had been positive.

He said Kahnawake Mohawk supporters intend to hold their ground and continue the blockade until Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia indicate they are satisfied that their demands have been met.

“They [the hereditary chiefs] want the tactical unit of the RCMP off their territory and they want the pipeline stopped while negotiations happen. That’s what they want and we’re here to support them to get to that point,” said Deer.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Woos, who also goes by Frank Alec, told National Observer on Monday that the RCMP had said it would take 16 days for them to dismantle a temporary outpost.

Deer said that it is Canada and not the Wet’suwet’en who are breaking the law by moving forward with the Coastal GasLink pipeline project without consent from the hereditary chiefs.

“People like to talk about the rule of law. The rule of the Supreme Court says that the land belongs to the hereditary chiefs […] It belongs to them,” said Deer.

Deer said that the Mohawks of Kahnawake are sympathetic to the people manning the barricades in B.C. and to the Wet’suwet’en chiefs themselves.

“It’s unceded territory. So that’s the rule of law and it’s Canada that’s violating that rule by imposing [this pipeline] on Wet’suwet’en territory without the consent of the chiefs who are the title holders of that land,” he said.

“We’re hoping that negotiations in B.C. will come to a settlement,” said Deer. SOURCE

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‘Walk the walk’: Wet’suwet’en chiefs sue Ottawa to force Crown to act on climate change

Lawsuit argues that courts should impose mechanisms on government to live up to climate commitments

Protesters in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs protested this week outside the Victoria legislature. A federal court claim from two of the chiefs now accuses Ottawa of neglecting its duty to protect Canadians from climate change. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

With conflict erupting over a natural gas pipeline in northwestern British Columbia, two Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are suing Ottawa in a bid to force the federal government to take action on climate change.

If the claim filed in federal court this week by leaders of the Likhts’amisyu Clan succeeds, Ottawa would be forced to revisit the approval of projects like the $6-billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline, if they kept Canada from meeting international commitments to lower greenhouse gas levels

“What the Likhts’amisyu are saying to the federal government is that you’ve talked the talk, now it’s time to walk the walk,” said Richard Overstall, the lawyer for the chiefs.

“And allowing these high greenhouse gas emitting projects to continue for 40 years isn’t walking the walk.”

‘A threat to their identity’

Although the hereditary chiefs who filed the suit — Dini Ze’ Lho’Imggin, also known as Alphonse Gagnon and Dini Ze’ Smogilhgim — are also opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline, Overstall claimed the timing of the federal court claim is a “coincidence” in terms of protests which have erupted across the country.

The two chiefs represent a pair of houses that comprise one of five Wet’suwet’en clans. According to the lawsuit, each is responsible for the welfare and territory of house members.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs take part in a rally in Smithers B.C. Two chiefs have now launched a federal court claim in a bid to force the Crown to act on climate change. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

 

The lawsuit describes global warming as an “existential threat” that has specific impact on the rights of the Wet’suwet’en as guaranteed under Section 7 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms: the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

“It is a threat to their identity, to their culture, to their relationship with the land and the life on it, and to their food security,” the statement of claim reads.

“It is a responsibility because large fossil-fuel infrastructure projects are proposed to cross their territories.”

‘Unwillingness’ to act

The court claim says the federal government has assured Canadians since at least 1988 that “it would establish laws and policies to meet its international climate commitments.”

Those promises culminated in a promise under the Paris climate agreement in 2015 to keep global warming well below 2 C above pre-industrial levels.

Map of the planned Coastal link LNG Pipeline, where it will interesect with Wet’suwet’en territory. (CBC News)

 

But the chiefs claim the Crown has “repeatedly failed and continues to fail to fulfil its constitutional duty” to protect their charter rights “due to its unwillingness to establish and to implement the laws, policies and actions needed” to ensure that Canada lives up to its word.

“Already, the plaintiffs have experienced significant warming effects on their territories,” the lawsuit reads.

“These effects include pine bark beetle infestations, forest fires, and salmon population declines, in part attributable to climate change.”

The chiefs claim Ottawa has deliberately “fettered its law-making power” — tied its own hands — “by failing to pass environmental assessment legislation that would allow the executive branch to cancel or significantly amend its approval of a high greenhouse gas emitting project in the event that Canada can demonstrably not meet its international global warming commitments or its obligations to the citizens of Canada.”

Groundbreaking claim?

The chiefs want a declaration from the court that the Crown has a constitutional duty to act to keep global warming between 1.5 C and 2 C above pre-industrial levels.

They also want a declaration that Canada has an obligation to meet those targets under a section of the Constitution that requires government to maintain “peace, order and good government.”

And they’re seeking a requirement for Ottawa to prepare “a complete, independent and timely annual account of Canada’s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions” with the ability to cancel approval for projects that threaten climate goals.

While the suit has the possibility to be precedent setting if it succeeds, Overstall points out the courts have told Parliament to strike down parts of statutes in the past as well as “reading in” certain clauses to existing legislation in order to meet constitutional requirements.

He also pointed to a lawsuit announced last year by a group of 15 youths across Canada as another example of the intersection between the charter right to security of the person and the threat of climate change.

“I think all of these would be groundbreaking, because global warming and its effect on Indigenous people and young people and everybody, is groundbreaking in itself,” Overstall said.

The Crown has yet to file a response to the claim. 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

Send in the army? Why one expert says that would be a ‘ludicrous’ response to rail blockades

‘Some of the officers would quit before they did that’ – Douglas Bland

Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs perform a round dance at a blockade at a CN Rail line just west of Edmonton, Alta, February 19, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Over seven years ago, two books written by retired lieutenant-colonel Douglas Bland offered some sobering warnings about the future of the Crown-Indigenous relationship — warnings that seem eerily prescient after the events of the past two weeks.

One book, Uprising, was a work of fiction — a well-researched tale of insurrection among impoverished young Aboriginal people rallying to a call to “take back the land.”

The second book (non-fiction) was more chilling. In factual, stripped-down prose, Bland chronicled how Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations were on a catastrophic collision course — a reckoning long in the making that would lead to social upheaval.

That book, Time Bomb: Canada and the First Nations, described how the peaceful Idle No More movement had the potential to morph into something far more menacing — something that could exploit the country’s vulnerability to blockades by barricading the east-west freight routes that stitch the nation together.

Canada’s transportation network was at the time — and remains today — an easy target for aspiring insurgents and activists.

They know if they decided to block down railways for a long time, or if they use weapons of any kind, in any strength, that the army and the Mounties and everybody would be down their throats.– Author Douglas Bland

Although Bland has deep respect for Indigenous culture and aspirations, in his books the former chair of defence management studies at Queen University examines a looming crisis through the lens of the military and national security.

The Liberal government has insisted that the recent blockades — which have paralyzed rail traffic across the country, leading to layoffs and industrial slowdowns — can only be resolved through patient and peaceful dialogue.

That argument is wearing thin with the government’s opponents. Aspiring Conservative leadership candidate Marilyn Gladu said the military should be sent in to break up the blockades “if the RCMP can’t handle it.”

A ‘last resort’

Derek Burney, who was chief of staff to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, declared in a recent National Post article that “enough is enough” and the current government should “empower all federal law enforcement agencies, and if necessary the military, to uphold the rule of law.”

Calls to send in the army, particularly at this stage, are “ludicrous,” said Bland, who added he believes that kind of solution is “way beyond anything we need to do now, or in the future.”

The military is — and should be — the federal response “of last resort,” he said.

The army’s mission is to fight foreign enemies and terrorists, not Canada’s own citizens. Treating the blockades like a full-blown insurrection would not only be perilous, said Bland — it would ignore the real nature of the Crown-Indigenous relationship.

“There is nothing so dangerous that you have to send (the army) in,” he said.

Seven years ago, Bland said, he would have estimated the probability of an actual Indigenous uprising much higher than he does today — simply because governments have finally acknowledged Indigenous Canadians’ real grievances and have made attempts, however imperfect, at reconciliation.

An overwhelming number of First Nations leaders and their people appear to be behind the federal government in its push for a negotiated end to the current crisis. A military response, Bland said, would destroy that goodwill while setting back the growing rapprochement with Aboriginal communities.

Political aims, political options

The aim of the current wave of protests is political, said Bland, and it’s not likely the activists want (or are prepared) to escalate the confrontation into an armed conflict.

“They know if they decided to block down railways for a long time, or if they use weapons of any kind, in any strength, that the army and the Mounties and everybody would be down their throats,” he said.

“They’re not interested in getting into a war with Canada. What they want to do, like a lot of other people, is put enough pressure on the government so that the government recognizes their claims and demands.”

An unidentified Mohawk woman clutches her child in one arm and a soldier’s wrist in the other hand on Highway 344 during the 1990 Oka crisis. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

 

Joseph Norton, the grand chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, said this week that it would be easy for the Crown to dispatch the military to “do its bidding.” But the people in his community lived through the Oka Crisis in 1990, which didn’t end until after a police officer was killed.

“Nobody wants to see that again,” said Norton.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller recently raised the spectre of that two-and-a-month standoff near Montreal. Thirty years ago, Miller told the House of Commons, he was a young army reservist serving alongside “four Mohawk brothers.” When the unit was ordered to Oka, the four Mohawk brothers left their unit.

“They were asked to make a difficult choice … between the country that they would lay down their life for and their families. For them, the choice was clear,” Miller said

Like Miller, many of the current crop of Canadian military leaders were junior officers at the time of Oka and remember what a divisive, dangerous time it was. Bland said he would be shocked if a chief of the defence staff ordered soldiers into an Indigenous community to put down a protest.

“Some of the officers would quit before they did that.” SOURCE

Blockades and the politics of division

Image result for Winniped Free Press: Blockades and the politics of division

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister sent an email this week to Tory supporters entitled: “These illegal blockades.”

By  Niigaan Sinclair

“You’ve probably heard about the highway and rail blockades happening across the country,” Pallister wrote in the Thursday evening message, “including the one right here in Manitoba.”

Echoing actions in Ontario and Quebec, demonstrators had blocked commuter and freight travel west of Winnipeg to protest the RCMP removal of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and activists challenging the construction of a gas pipeline in northern B.C.

Pallister announced Wednesday his government would seek a court injunction to remove the Manitoba protesters from the rail line. By 2 p.m. Thursday, though, CN Railway had received approval of its own injunction and the occupation was ended.

Still, Pallister sent out his email four hours later.

“We respect the rights of protesters,” it proclaims. “But laws need to be applied.”

The message goes on to criticize Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew for supporting “those behind the blockades,” alongside signing the “‘Leap Manifesto,’ a radical document calling for the shutdown of Canada’s entire resource sector!”

Actors, activists, and musicians launch the Leap Manifesto outlining a climate and economic vision for Canada during a press conference in 2015.
 

Actors, activists, and musicians launch the Leap Manifesto outlining a climate and economic vision for Canada during a press conference in 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/DARREN CALABRESE

For the record, the Leap Manifesto is an apolitical document created in 2015 by more than 60 Indigenous, social welfare, food, environmental, labour, and faith-based (mostly Christian) organizations, and committed to by more than 52,000 celebrities, activists, and Canadians.

The document is “a call for a Canada based on caring for the Earth and one another,” and asks signees to commit to honouring treaties, building locally-based energy infrastructure, and supporting immigrants and workers to enter environmentally-friendly sectors. It also calls on governments to fund “caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts, and public-interest media,” a national child-care program, and institute a universal basic income.

In fairness, the manifesto also calls for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, creation of a carbon tax, cuts to military spending, and adopting a national “polluter pays” principle.

‘People are starting to wake up’: Pipeline protesters expect long-term change

A protester who was blocking an entrance to the port is arrested by police officers in Vancouver on Monday. The demonstration was held in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to construction of a natural gas pipeline across their traditional territories.


VANCOUVER — Opponents of a natural gas pipeline in northwestern British Columbia say they believe protests across the country are sparking a growing awareness of Indigenous rights that will lead to long-term change.

Protesters blocked train traffic in east Vancouver on Monday afternoon to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The protest came hours after nearly 60 people were arrested for obstructing busy ports in the city and in nearby Delta.

Demonstrators gathered on the B.C. legislature steps in Victoria, where traffic was also tied up because of blockages on two bridges Monday evening.

Pipeline opponents also gathered at the office of the Crown-Indigenous relations minister in Toronto, the federal justice building in Ottawa, a commuter train line in Montreal and outside an event with the natural resources minister in St. John’s, N.L.

Jen Wickham, a spokeswoman for one of the five clans that make up the Wet’suwet’en Nation, said she believes non-Indigenous Canadians are becoming more aware of First Nations rights.

“I think that people are starting to wake up to the fact that we have the right to our territory,” she said. “They’re upset and they’re taking to the streets. They’re occupying offices, they’re stopping traffic and they’re stopping trains. They’re saying, loud and clear, ‘This is not OK.’ “

The RCMP began enforcing a court injunction last week against people camped near a pipeline work site in Houston. Mounties said 14 people were arrested and expected to appear in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday.

Mounties said in a statement late Monday they have concluded major operations to enforce the injunction, following the arrests of seven more people earlier in the day.

Wickham said members are defending their territory from construction of the pipeline, which is part of a $40 billion liquefied natural gas export project.

“We are the rightful title owners of our territory and we will continue to assert our sovereignty,” she said. “It’s not a question of protesting. It’s a question of their homes. They’re defending their homes.”

Protesters began disruptions at ports in Vancouver and nearby Delta on Friday. The ports obtained court injunctions and arrests were made Monday morning, when Delta police said emergency health services were called for one protester out of an abundance of caution.

“Everyone involved was treated respectfully and with dignity,” said Cris Leykauf, a Delta police spokeswoman.

Demonstrators regrouped and impeded a major rail thoroughfare that feeds into the port. Spokeswoman Natalie Knight said about 150 people were there on Monday afternoon.

“We want to send a clear signal in at least two different directions. We want to signal to ourselves that we are strong, that we are not afraid of the colonial legal courts, and that we stand with the Wet’suwet’en,” she said.

Vancouver police said it was monitoring the protest and no arrests had been made.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority said it had not heard of any terminal delays due to demonstrations on the rail lines but it continued to monitor the situation.

Knight also said she has seen public opinion shift toward support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

In the years that followed, residential schools were closed and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was launched, Knight said.

“The ripple effects of these kinds of actions for Indigenous sovereignty are much bigger than we can predict or see in this current moment.”

In St. John’s, N.L., dozens of protesters gathered outside Memorial University, where Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan was set to speak.

“Natural resource development in this country, at a time when we’ve committed to net zero, when a majority of Canadians have voted with clear concern about climate change, there are going to be protests and people feel very strongly about it,” O’Regan said.

“I was more than happy to hear their concerns and I’m sure I’ll be hearing a number of others as I go across the country.”

About 30 people waited for six hours in the lobby of the federal justice building in Ottawa until a trio of department officials came down to hear their concerns. The officials said Justice Minister David Lametti was travelling and unavailable, but protesters said they wouldn’t leave until they spoke to someone in a position of authority.

Emma Buchanan, who attended the protest, said the national show of support for the Wet’suwet’en was a sign that people are waking up to the need to support Indigenous people.

“Indigenous issues are Canadian issues and they are for everybody to care about,” she said.

Lametti said in a statement that he had spoken by phone with the protesters and was committed to bringing their demands to his cabinet colleagues.

“Advancing reconciliation is a crucial priority for our government and our country,” he said. “I take this responsibility very seriously.”

On the B.C. legislature steps, protester Kolin Sutherland-Wilson said he feels a responsibility to stand up for Wet’suwet’en members.

“In this day and age, it is immoral, it is unjust and it is inhumane for Canada to continue to criminalize and vilify Indigenous law,” he said.

All 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route, including the Wet’suwet’en council, have signed benefits agreements with Coastal GasLink. However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the council established by the Indian Act only has authority over reserve lands.

The hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area because they have never signed a treaty ceding their traditional territories.

Premier John Horgan has said the pipeline is of vital economic and social importance to northern B.C. He said the courts have decided the pipeline can proceed and the rule of law must prevail.

B.C.’s Indigenous relations minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. SOURCE

 

TAKE ACTION! ALL EYES ON WET’SUWET’EN

All eyes are watching as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began their invasion on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.  We wanted to provide the map above along with a brief update from our Wet’suwet’en relatives so you can better understand the lay of the land in the fight against TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline being forced on the homelands of the Wet’suwet’en. Keep scrolling after updates for ways to take action.

Background:

January 5th, 2020 Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation evicted Coastal GasLink (CGL) from their territories. CGL does not have consent to construct their $6.6 billion fracked gas pipeline. CGL is trying to push through their project on unceded Indigenous territories.

“Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law) all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and have not provided free, prior, and informed consent to Coastal Gaslink/TransCanada to do work on Wet’suwet’en lands.” The Royal Canadian Mountain Police are invading the land to clear it of Indigenous land defenders and their supporters so that CGL can continue work. Hereditary Chief Dsta’hyl (Liksamisu Clan) said, “wet’suwet’en will enforce the eviction of Coastal Gaslink with any means at their disposal.”

RCMP spent $3.6 million in the first three months they invaded Wet’suwet’en territory. They’ve now been here for 13 months. How many millions of dollars has RCMP spent finding our Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirits? The connection to our MMIWG2S epidemic and pipeline industrial man camps is well know. We know that with violence to Indigenous lands comes violence to Indigenous peoples.

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Day Three, February 8th, 2020 :

Unist’ot’en Camp 66km

RCMP has made it the gates of the Unist’ot’en Camp at 66km. Unist’ot’en matriarchs went into ceremony to call on ancestors and cremated a Canadian flag marked with the words “Reconciliation is dead.” Freda Huson threw the injunction and shouted “this is all its worth, the paper its written on.” RCMP helicopters have retreated for now.

1:28 pm – 4 arrests reported at 27km, Gisdewe cabin. Media being held back from accurately reporting the invasion for the third day in the row.

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Day two, February 7th, 2020
Gidimt’en Checkpoint 44 km

Dozens of RCMP officers breached the gates here, four waves of helicopters dropped off tactical officers to surround the homesite with assault rifles and police dogs. The four land defenders arrested during the Gidimt’en invasion are still in custody. They have refused to sign conditions of release that will prohibit them from visiting homesites on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. Among those arrested are Gidimt’en Chief Woos’ daughter Eve Saint, Anne Spice of the tlingit nation, Denzel Sutherland-Wilson of the Gitxsan nation, and a Mohawk supporter.

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Day One, February 6, 2020
Media Camp Invasion 27 km

Dozens of militarized police with assault rifles and dogs have been deployed against unarmed Wet’suwet’en land defenders on unceded Indigenous land. At least 100 police are part of the operation. Six arrests were made, while two Wet’suwet’en home sites remain in the path of police violence, including the Unist’ot’en Healing Center founded in 2015.

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You can donate to legal defense/support funds here:

Gidimt’en: https://bit.ly/389LIoo

Unist’ot’en: https://bit.ly/2SnIiYy

Likht’samisyu: https://bit.ly/388m3wu

To follow the events of the invasion: 

https://www.facebook.com/unistoten/

https://www.facebook.com/wetsuwetenstrong/

On twitter @UnistotenCamp

Hashtags for Social Media: 

#LANDBACK

#WETSUWETENSTRONG

#SHUTDOWNCANADA

Download the Wet’suwet’en Supporter Toolkit 2020 here:

http://unistoten.camp/supportertoolkit2020/

Hold a solidarity action

Find A Solidarity Action Near You:

https://www.facebook.com/events/221856442184296/

Watch this video of Freda Huson, Healing Center founder, giving an update 31 days after the eviction:

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2640066699441798

Video of heavily militarized police invading #Wetsuweten territories:

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=522458818374962

More Video militarized police with assault rifles and dogs have been deployed against unarmed Wet’suwet’en land defenders:

https://www.facebook.com/unistoten/posts/3465180653556155?__tn__=-R

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Contact the British Columbian Government here:

Premier John Horgan
1.250.387.1715

Minister of Indigenous Relations and “Reconciliation” Scott Fraser
1.250.953.4844

Attorney General David Eby
1.250.387.2178

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth
1.250.356.2178

Minister of Forest Lands and Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development and MLA for Stikine-Wet’suwet’en Territory Doug Donaldson
1.250.387.6240

Contact CGL Operator TC Energy (Formerly TransCanada):

Corporate Head Office
450 – 1 Street S.W. Calgary, AB
Canada, T2P 5H1
1-403-920-2000

Corporate Head Office
700 Louisiana St,
Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (832.320.5000

Contact CGL Operator KKR :

NEW YORK
9 West 57th Street
Suite 4200
New York, New York 10019
+ 1 (212) 750-8300

HOUSTON

600 Travis Street
Suite 7200
Houston, Texas 77002
+ 1 (713) 343-5142

MENLO PARK

MENLO PARK
2800 Sand Hill Road
Suite 200
Menlo Park, California 94025
+ 1 (650) 233-6560

Do not look away as Indigenous peoples are being pushed off their land. Reconciliation isn’t violence against Indigenous peoples.

SOURCE