COUNCIL OF CANADIANS: STATEMENT IN SOLIDARITY WITH WET’SUWET’EN NATION

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Statement
Wednesday, February 2, 2020

Council of Canadians chapters, supporters and staff are firmly in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation as they continue to assert sovereignty on their traditional territories and resist state violence.

Land defenders have shared on the Unist’ot’en Camp website: “On December 31, 2019, BC Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church granted an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en nation who have been stewarding and protecting our traditional territories from the destruction of multiple pipelines, including Coastal GasLink’s liquefied natural gas pipeline.” The Wet’suwet’en issued a call for international solidarity actions in response to this escalating situation.

Take action in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation now.

Earlier this month, all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation evicted Coastal GasLink (CGL) from their territories. The company sought and obtained an injunction from the BC Supreme Court, which gave the Wet’suwet’en until 3pm on Friday, January 10 2020 to comply with an order to remove gates and cabins on their own lands.

In early 2019 the RCMP forcibly removed Wet’suwet’en people and their guests from the Gidimt’en checkpoint. This heavily militarized raid included assault rifles and the RCMP were authorized to use lethal force against Indigenous land defenders.

Since this brutal attack in January 2019, BC has passed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law, including the right for Indigenous nations to give free, prior and informed consent to activities on their lands. This right includes the right to say no, which is what the Wet’suwet’en are doing now.

In January 2020, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called upon Canada to halt construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline until the Wet’suwet’en people grant free, prior and informed consent to the project. The committee also urged Canada to cease the forced eviction of land defenders and prohibit the use of lethal weapons against Indigenous Peoples, and to guarantee that no force will be used against them. It also urged the federal government to withdraw the RCMP from traditional lands.

In their own words, the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs demand the following:

  • That the province cease construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project and suspend permits.
  • That the UNDRIP and our right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected by the state and RCMP.
  • That the RCMP and associated security and policing services be withdrawn from Wet’suwet’en lands, in agreement with the most recent letter provided by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimiation’s (CERD) request.
  • That the provincial and federal government, RCMP and private industry employed by CGL respect our laws and our governance system, and refrain from using any force to access our lands or remove our people.

To support the Wet’suwet’en Nation, you can take this action in solidarity now.

The Council of Canadians supports the demands of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and remains in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders. We demand the Governments of Canada and British Columbia end their violence against Indigenous People immediately and respect the sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation 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.

SOURCE

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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

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