by Gary Porter
The Canadian state brutally violated the Rights of Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, in the interests of the Oil and Gas Barons. Demonstrations immediately occurred in over 30 cities as thousands of Canadians showed they are fed up with Official Racism.
The RCMP moved to enforce a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to allow pipeline workers to pass through two Wet’suwet’en checkpoints on January 9. A heavily armed SWAT team attacked peaceful indigenous protesters and violently arrested 14 land defenders. Over the next two days, virtually spontaneous demonstrations occurred in dozens of towns and cities in reaction to repeated state violence against indigenous people and against the pollution that emanates from the global corporate profit machine. Mass media was excluded by the cops from the site of the attack, but photos taken by indigenous bystanders show protesters being cruelly attacked by multiple police, pushing their faces into the snow.
The permanent Unist’ot’en camp, and the more recently established Gidimt’en checkpoint, are part of an ongoing effort by Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders and members to protect unceded lands from pipeline construction. “The proposed pipelines are a threat to the watershed, as well as to the plants, animals and communities that depend on them,” the Unist’ot’en Camp states on its website.
While more than one proposed pipeline would cross through Wet’suwet’en traditional territory, Trans Canada’s Coastal GasLink project is at the centre of the current injunction dispute.
The proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline would span 670 kilometres across northern British Columbia. It is intended to supply natural gas from near Dawson Creek, B.C. to the planned LNG Canada export facility near Kitimat, B.C., where it would be converted to liquefied natural gas for export. Construction is estimated to cost about $4.8 billion.
According to LNG Canada, Coastal GasLink would be the only pipeline to supply its facility in Kitimat, B.C. on the Pacific coast. A company spokesperson called it an “essential component of the LNG Canada project.” This $40 billion project to be built by a global consortium will subject the entire area to heavy gas fracking operations. Preliminary fracking was recently halted in the wake of earthquakes. Moreover, the project makes it impossible for B.C. to meet its carbon reduction goals.
Jody Wilson-Raybould, recently demoted by Prime Minister Trudeau from Justice Minister to Veterans’ Affairs Minister, issued a 1,100 word tract on her demotion. Citing the PM’s own words, that the relationship between Canada and Indigenous people is the “most important” one, she reminds all that “the work that must be done is well known,” and “legislative and policy changes based on the recognition of title and rights, including historic treaties, are urgently needed.” Toward the end of her letter she pledges to “continue to be directly engaged” in advancing “fundamental shifts.”
Wilson-Raybould is a woman of Kwakwaka’wakw heritage who was previously the Regional Chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations. And her words were being written the week after a heavily-armed RCMP contingent used force to remove Wet’suwet’en activists from a ‘checkpoint’ on the road to a work camp for gas-line workers. The line crosses lands where, courts have ruled, hereditary chiefs hold historic and traditional title. Those chiefs, it seems, were not part of the ‘consultation and accommodations’ promised for the project.
The elected band council is a creation of the colonial settler federal government-imposed Indian Act of 1876 which treated indigenous people as wards of the state, essentially as children. In an attempt to destroy the traditional basis of indigenous government, the Act created elected Band Councils which, the government assumed, could be more easily swayed than traditional hereditary chiefs. Turns out that was true in this case. The band council came to terms with the Trans Canada Pipeline. But the hereditary Chiefs were not included and do oppose the pipeline. The clans for the most part are following the hereditary chiefs.
The big question remains: By what right is Trans Canada Pipeline able to get a court injunction to allow their workers onto un-ceded indigenous land in the first place? By what conceivable logic can the RCMP, claiming to be “neutral” and merely “enforcing the law”, send heavily armed SWAT team members onto Indigenous land and brutally attack a peaceful road blockade, arresting 14 native land defenders in the process. The cops are far from neutral. They are imposing the will of settler capitalism on the indigenous people. They are enforcing the laws of the white man to seize indigenous land and using it to generate white profits.
The settler government has consistently violated indigenous sovereignty and the right to self determination in the interests of white capitalist profit and racist social policy. The Canadian federal government, for decades, organized the forced removal of indigenous children to brutal Residential Schools. In those schools, many were physically, sexually and psychologically abused, over-worked, under-fed and punished for speaking their own language. Many children died.
In 2010, Ottawa endorsed the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The latest Trudeau/RCMP action violates the declaration dramatically. The racist policy and practice has to cease. Trans Canada Pipeline should get off indigenous land. Protesters should be released and RCMP excluded from indigenous land. No to the pipeline. No to the LNG Canada fracking operation. Self-determination for indigenous people.
Photo: Elizabeth Wang / The Ubyssey