Oppose State Violence Against Wet’suwet’en in the Service of Private Interests

Oppose State Violence Against Wet’suwet’en in the Service of Private Interests

The Gidim’ten Checkpoint informs that on the morning of March 29, “a large force of the RCMP’s Community Industry Response Group (C-IRG) raided a Gidimt’en village site and arrested five land and water defenders, mostly Indigenous women, including Gidimt’en Chief Woos’ daughter. The raid accompanied a search warrant for theft under $5,000 with no clear relation to the Gidimt’en village site.

“This large-scale action by the RCMP’s Community Industry Response Group (C-IRG) involved more than a dozen police vehicles and officers drawn from throughout British Columbia. The arrests come just weeks after the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) announced they have ‘initiated a systemic investigation into the activities and operations of the RCMP “E” Division Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG).'” Video of the raid can be viewed here.

The Wet’suwet’en explain, “In the days leading to this police action, RCMP C-IRG have been found patrolling Wet’suwet’en traplines and cultural use areas, harassing and intimidating Wet’suwet’en members and disrupting constitutionally protected Wet’suwet’en cultural activities. Members of a private security firm hired by Coastal GasLink pipeline, Forsythe, have also escalated harassment and surveillance efforts against Wet’suwet’en members in recent days.

“Both the RCMP’s C-IRG unit and Forsythe are named as defendants in an ongoing lawsuit launched by Wet’suwet’en members, which alleges that police and private security have launched a coordinated campaign of harassment and intimidation in an effort to force Wet’suwet’en people to abandon their unceded territories.”

Sleydo’, spokesperson for Gidimt’en Checkpoint, said: “This harassment and intimidation is exactly the kind of violence designed to drive us from our homelands. The constant threat of violence and criminalization for merely existing on our own lands must have been what our ancestors felt when Indian agents and RCMP were burning us out of our homes as late as the ’50s in our area. The colonial project continues at the hands of industry’s private mercenaries — C-IRG.”

The Wet’suwet’en point out that the raid and arrests come days before Indigenous delegates, including Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, are set to arrive at Royal Bank of Canada’s Annual General Meeting on April 5 to oppose expansion of fossil fuel projects without consent on their territories.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks stated: “This is harassment, and exactly what Royal Bank of Canada is funding. Ahead of its shareholder meeting next week, RBC continues to fund corporate colonialism, and displace Indigenous peoples from our lands at gunpoint — all for a fracked gas pipeline we cannot afford now or in the future. In the context of the theft of our ancestral land, alleging stolen saws and clothing is outrageous.”

Update on Land Defenders Arrested in November 2021

Land defenders arrested in November 2021 are still defending themselves in court. The Gidim’ten Checkpoint informed on February 28 that “A dozen Wet’suwet’en land defenders and supporters have applied to the Supreme Court of British Columbia to have criminal contempt charges stayed in light of widespread Charter violations stemming from police misconduct.

“Alleging an ‘abuse of process,’ the court applications highlight the RCMP’s ‘disproportionate and excessive use of force’ against peaceful land defenders during a series of militarized police raids in November of 2021. In violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the applications allege that arrestees were variously denied their right to security of person, subjected to unreasonable search and seizure, arbitrarily detained and imprisoned, and denied reasonable bail without just cause.

“‘The RCMP/CIRG’s enforcement tactics impaired the Applicant’s individual Charter rights, but the police misconduct also displays a systemic disregard for Indigenous rights and sovereignty and the Charter more generally,’ the court filings state.

“The applications are grounded in Wet’suwet’en law and sovereignty, situating the arrests within a larger context of Wet’suwet’en-Canadian relations. Each arrest took place on the unceded lands of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Defendants acted under the lawful authority of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs to uphold decisions made collectively by the nation in its governance hall (bahlats) to protect unceded Wet’suwet’en lands and waters.

“‘The Wet’suwet’en have asserted a right to live on and protect their territories for thousands of years, primarily through the feast hall governance system carried out communally by its clans and house groups,’ the application states. ‘The impacts of the manner of enforcement are not limited to the individuals arrested, but extend to the efforts at reconciliation between the Wet’suwet’en and the federal and provincial governments,’ it continues.

“In a 2020 Memorandum of Understanding, the governments of Canada and British Columbia recognized the Wet’suwet’en hereditary system as ‘a legitimate government with title’ to 22,000 km2 of unceded land. Despite this, the RCMP have repeatedly undertaken large scale, violent invasions of Wet’suwet’en traditional territories and have established a sustained campaign of surveillance, intimidation, and harassment, which is currently the subject of a separate lawsuit by Wet’suwet’en members.”

(TML Monthly)