Wet’suwet’en Land Keepers inspire Solidarity

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Fight against Coastal GasLink (Methane) Pipeline Continues

by Gary Porter

This is a story of white Canadian savages facing unarmed, peaceful indigenous resisters; a story of a white capitalist state using flagrant lies, white laws, white courts and heavily armed police to serve the interests of the oil cartel. Their ‘enemy,’ the Wet’suwet’en indigenous land defenders, are resisting a methane pipeline through their unceded territory. The pipeline links a large gas fracking operation to a massive compressor in Kitimat on the Pacific coast to make liquefied natural gas (known as LNG). The result will be further acceleration of the rise in Green House Gases threatening life on earth. This is a story of white capitalism relentlessly and remorselessly violating indigenous rights for profit.

The RCMP, under orders from the NDP Premier of British Columbia, on Feb 8, 9 and 10 executed a steady physical assault on the land defenders of the Wet’suwet’en under leadership of their hereditary chiefs. These defenders are making repeated efforts to block access to the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline construction site on their unceded land.

In rapid response, indigenous peoples and a growing array of allies, including members of Socialist Action across Canada, organized over 50 meetings, marches, rallies, occupations and blockades. They are demanding “RCMP Off Wet’suwet’en land. Stop the Pipeline. System Change, Not Climate Change.”

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The indigenous peoples have been the bravest, most consistent defenders of the land against the depredations of the huge oil and gas producers and their Earth-killing hunger for profit before life. As more and more Canadians learn to understand the nature, causes and results of climate change, the lonely fight of the indigenous people is quickly finding allies, especially among the young.

A ceremonial fire burned on the front steps of the British Columbia Legislature as supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs joined protests across Canada. Earlier, the Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria was blocked. Before that, the massive 475-car B.C. Ferries from Vancouver Island to the B.C. mainland were impeded for several hours.

For three days, protesters in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters blocked trucks from entering or leaving Port of Vancouver facilities on the south shore of Burrard Inlet. This blockade was broken up by police attacks and arrests on February 10.

“As far as the eye can see there is a line of trucks backed up and that’s traffic that is not going through the port,” said protester Isabel Krupp. “That’s commerce and commodities that’s not getting sold and that’s a victory.”

On February 9, some 400 people in Toronto blocked the CP freight rail line and shut it down for six hours.

In Belleville, Ont., a protest on Saturday shut down VIA Rail service between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa for the second day in a row. High-volume passenger and freight train travel between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa is at a standstill.

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

Hale, a chef living and working in Montreal, calls herself “the only Wet’suwet’en in Quebec.” “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. Clearly, no project will be viable if it is imposed by force on First Nations.”

Mi’kmaq grassroots grandmothers and about 50 supporters rallied in Halifax. Alton Gas protesters 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 that corporations only care about money.

The battle against these corporations is coast to coast.

Close to 100 people crowded into the lobby of Canada Place in Edmonton on Friday to stand in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary elders and call on the Alberta Investment Management Corporation to divest out of the embattled Coastal Gaslink Pipeline.

The Edmonton rally, organized by Climate Justice Edmonton and Beaver Hills Warriors, carried a local message for AIMCo, an Alberta-based investment management corporation, to divest their 65 per cent equity interest in the pipeline.

NDP Premier John Horgan, on October 24, 2019, with great ceremony and self-congratulation, announced that the B.C. legislature had unanimously endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the first legislature in Canada to do so. When UNDRIP was adopted by the UN, Canada voted for it.

UNDRIP explicitly asserts the inviolable right to self-determination of indigenous peoples. This right includes the right to establish their own form of governance, to preserve their own language and culture, operate their own system of laws and justice, and to control the use and development (or non-development) of resources on their lands. The traditional form of government for many indigenous peoples in Canada was, and remains, based on hereditary chiefs, most of who operate more by consensus than diktat.

The band councils were set up under the Indian Act of 1876, about which indigenous peoples were not consulted.

Under UNDRIP, sending federal cops onto indigenous land, arresting indigenous land defenders on their own lands, issuing “legal” injunctions against indigenous people for blocking a pipeline across their land, and building any kind of highway, railroad, pipeline, airport or anything on indigenous land without their free, informed agreement by the process of their own choosing, are all violations.

Self-determination includes the right to say NO. No to pollution, no to intrusion, no to profit, and no to the courts. NO. Alberta’s oil shill premier, the hard-rightist Jason Kenney, recently said that to allow the indigenous people to block the pipeline would give them a veto. This was shocking to him. But that is precisely the meaning of UNDRIP. It gives them a veto.

Methane, as a gas, leaks out of the earth during fracking. It leaks all along the pipeline route, and even more during the compression process. It is impossible to make it leak-proof. In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The Wet’suwet’en are right to oppose it.

Petronas, the LNG Canada deal lead partner, claimed the project would employ 3,500 workers at peak construction. After the terminal opens, however, there will be permanent jobs for only 200 to 300 operational employees. The massive compressor units will be built in China. These small numbers contradict Premier Horgan’s fatuous claim of 10,000 long-term jobs in B.C.
With low royalty rates, few jobs, massive subsidies, and the creation of the biggest source of GHGs in B.C., the only winners are the giant oil and gas corporations. It is obvious that corporate profits are the most important priority for social democrat John Horgan. It is just as obvious that UNDRIP means little to him. When the conflict arose between the UNDRIP rights of the Wet’suwet’en and building the gas pipeline, Horgan never hesitated. He said the “rule of law” would prevail, and the pipeline would be built. By rule of law, he means the racist laws, courts and militarized police teams of the Canadian state, not UNDRIP. But the LNG Canada deal is shaky. Gas deals are collapsing around the globe. That is why Horgan is acting so ruthlessly. If the Wet’suwet’en struggle and the international solidarity movement remain strong there is a real possibility this whole LNG project will collapse — a worthy goal for the sake of our planet, for indigenous rights, and for grasping the power of united, mass resistance to fossil capitalism.