Wet’suwet’en solidarity demonstrations take place across Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marching on the Streets of Ottawa

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

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

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

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

Wet'suwet'en

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

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

“That’s not right,” she said.

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

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

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

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

Wet'suwet'en

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

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

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

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

Beating the drum in Montreal

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Canada’s been trespassing against First Nations…” 

 

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

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

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

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

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

The battle against corporations is coast to coast.

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

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

Morrisseau said she will continue to protect the land.

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

SOURCE

‘Monstrous’: Docs Show Canadian Mounties Wanted Snipers Ready to Shoot Indigenous Land Defenders Blockading Pipeline

In response to the exclusive Guardian report, critics called the actions of Canadian authorities “abhorrent and unconscionable.”

Royal Canadian Mounted Polic

Royal Canadian Mounted Police parade following the Last Post ceremony in front of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing on April 6, 2017 in Ypres, Belgium. (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

In an exclusive report Friday that outraged human rights advocates worldwide, The Guardian revealed that Canadian police wanted snipers on standby for a January 2019 crackdown on Indigenous land defenders who were blocking construction of a natural gas pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Guardian reported on official records—documents as well as audio and video content—reviewed by the newspaper related to the police “invasion” that led to 14 arrests:

Notes from a strategy session for a militarized raid on ancestral lands of the Wet’suwet’en nation show that commanders of Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), argued that “lethal overwatch is req’d”—a term for deploying snipers.

The RCMP commanders also instructed officers to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” ahead of the operation to remove a roadblock which had been erected by Wet’suwet’en people to control access to their territories and stop construction of the proposed 670km (416-mile Coastal GasLink pipeline (CGL).

Indigenous land defenders established the Gidimt’en checkpoint—where the police operation took place—as part of a broader battle against pipeline builder TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada. The RCMP action was an attempt to enforce a court injunction that came in response to the Unist’ot’en camp established on Wet’suwet’en territory in opposition to the pipeline.

Some critics highlighted how police conduct contrasted with the Canadian government’s truth and reconciliation efforts launched under Conservative former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and continued under the country’s current Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau.

Frances Moore, operations and national outreach manager at the Indigenous youth-led Canadian nonprofit group We Matter, wrote on Twitter that she is “saddened that it’s taking leaked documents from the RCMP for Canadians to believe” that police were prepared to show force against land defenders.

Specifically, according to The Guardian

The documents show that ahead of the raid, the RCMP deployed an array of surveillance, including heavily armed police patrols, a jet boat, helicopter, drone technology, heat-sensing cameras, and close monitoring of key land defenders’ movements and social media postings.

Police established a “media exclusion zone,” blocking reporters from accessing the area. They took care to hide their carbine rifles on the approach to the roadblock because the “optics” of the weapons were “not good,” according to one of the documents.

The documents also show close collaboration between the RCMP and TC Energy: police officers attended company planning sessions and daily “tailgate” meetings, and were privy to CGL’s legal strategy.

The RCMP were prepared to arrest children and grandparents: “No exception, everyone will be arrested in the injunction area,” a document reads. Another makes reference to possible child apprehension by social services—a troubling disclosure given the violent history of residential schooling in Canada and the disproportionate number of Indigenous children currently in the child welfare system.

Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson (Howilhkat) connected the RCMP’s militarized approach to the early 2019 operation to a lengthy record of colonial violence.

“In our experience, since first contact, RCMP have been created by the federal government to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands,” Huson told The Guardian. “They have proven [that] through their harassment of my people to support Coastal GasLink in invading our territories.”

Although an RCMP spokesperson declined to comment on the specific content of the records reviewed by The Guardian, they told the newspaper that while planning the raid, police took into account the remote location and “the unpredictable nature of what we could face.”

The Guardian noted that its report came as the Wet’suwet’en camps are preparing for a court ruling on an injunction sought by TC Energy that would permanently restrict the Indigenous land protectors from blockading pipeline sites. SOURCE

RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en Nation territory breaches Canada’s ‘rule of law’

“Canada is not a country that follows the rule of law. Canada makes and breaks laws to suit its own economic and political interests, which run counter to those of Indigenous peoples. It is time to be honest about it, and call out Canada as an outlaw, and take action to support the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who have occupied their lands since time immemorial.” – Prof Pam Palmater

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes flowery public speeches about respecting the rights of Indigenous peoples and reassures the international community that there is no relationship more important that the one with Indigenous peoples, Canada invaded sovereign Wet’suwet’en Nation territory. When questioned about this aggressive move at a Liberal fundraiser in Kamloops, British Columbia, he responded: “No, obviously, it’s not an ideal situation… But at the same time, we’re also a country of the rule of law.”

Canada’s invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory through its national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), is an example of the blatant violation of the rule of law in favour of corporate interests. Canada has consistently failed to follow the rule of law when it comes to Indigenous peoples, and the violent arrests of the Wet’suwet’en people at the Gidimt’en checkpoint, set up in support of the Unist’ot’en homestead, is a glaring example of Canada’s lawlessness.

The people of Wet’suwet’en Nation, as represented by their traditional government, have long asserted their sovereign jurisdiction over their Nation’s lands which span about 22,000 square kilometres in northwest British Columbia. These lands have never been ceded, nor have their rights to use, manage, protect or govern these lands been extinguished in any way. The Nation has never signed any treaty or constitutional agreement that has specifically surrendered their sovereignty as a Nation. While there have been many federal and provincial laws that have interfered with First Nation laws in general, there has never been an explicit extinguishment of Wet’suwet’en laws and jurisdiction over their Nation’s sovereign territory. Their land rights are not only recognized in Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982, but they are also protected in numerous international treaties and declarations, like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). In other words, there was no legal basis for Canada to invade their territory. MORE

Who controls Canada’s indigenous lands?

The courts in Canada are grappling with a decision central to the relationship between Canadian and traditional indigenous laws.

Chief Na'Moks on left, quote "We are hereditary chiefs..." on right.

The dispute involves the construction of a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline in the province of British Columbia.

It’s a project which has exposed a rift between elected and hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en people, who disagree about whether to allow the pipeline to be built through traditional lands.

The elected councils have jurisdiction within the boundaries of the reservations to administer federal government legislation, but not the wider traditional territory which the pipeline would pass through.

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en nation are stewards and protecters of 22,000 square km (13,670 square miles) of traditional territory, outside the reservations.

They are concerned about the impact of the project on their land and natural resources. SOURCE

Obligation to deal with proper Wet’suwet’en title holders

If TransCanada doesn’t like it, they can go around Wet’suwet’en Territory

I am appalled at the government of B.C. regarding both its insistence on pressing forward with hydraulic fracturing at this time of climate crisis and with its clear choosing of offensive, disrespectful and contemptuous actions to the Wet’suwet’en Nation to accomplish this goal.

I strongly condemn the RCMP’s raid on Wet’suwet’en Nation, their forceful removal of land defenders from their territory and their continued occupation. The RCMP actions are in contravention of our governments’ commitments to reconciliation at all levels, in contravention of the Supreme Court of Canada’s repeated rulings on title and rights, in contravention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and in contravention of what is just decent and right.

Provincial and federal levels of government knew that the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en are the title holders of that land. They had an obligation to inform TransCanada of this and to deal with the proper title holders of the land involved. If TransCanada doesn’t like it, they can go around Wet’suwet’en Territory or reinvest in some activity that might have a chance of getting us out of some of the many crises we currently face on our planet.

I am appalled at the government of B.C. regarding both its insistence on pressing forward with hydraulic fracturing at this time of climate crisis and with its clear choosing of offensive, disrespectful and contemptuous actions to the Wet’suwet’en Nation to accomplish this goal.

I strongly condemn the RCMP’s raid on Wet’suwet’en Nation, their forceful removal of land defenders from their territory and their continued occupation. The RCMP actions are in contravention of our governments’ commitments to reconciliation at all levels, in contravention of the Supreme Court of Canada’s repeated rulings on title and rights, in contravention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and in contravention of what is just decent and right.

Provincial and federal levels of government knew that the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en are the title holders of that land. They had an obligation to inform TransCanada of this and to deal with the proper title holders of the land involved. If TransCanada doesn’t like it, they can go around Wet’suwet’en Territory or reinvest in some activity that might have a chance of getting us out of some of the many crises we currently face on our planet. MORE