UPDATED: RCMP exclusion zone in Wet’suwet’en territory, UN report calls for withdrawal
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Legal complaints filed against RCMP exclusion zone
BY Rumneek Johal DH January 15 2020
The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has filed legal complaints against the RCMP exclusion zone set up outside of Wet’suwet’en territory, on behalf of two individuals.
The “access control checkpoint” has been set up by BC RCMP since Monday, and although RCMP said in a statement they would allow media and persons providing food, medicine, or other supplies through the checkpoint, only certain people were able to get through.
BC RCMP issued a release Monday saying that an access-control checkpoint has been established at the 27-km mark of the forestry road, to “mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway, and to allow emergency service access to the area.”
“The BCCLA is filing legal complaints for Delee Alexis Nikal and Cody Thomas Merriman (Wedlidi) to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP,” said a joint release from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and the BCCLA.
“Both Nikal and Merriman were separately bringing food and emergency supplies but were denied entry and access at the RCMP exclusion zone, in contravention of the RCMP’s own statements and Nikal and Merriman’s inherent Indigenous and Charter-protected rights.”
“We are extremely concerned about the use of exclusion zones prohibiting Wet’suwet’en people, the public, and media from accessing Wet’suwet’en territories,” said Harsha Walia, executive director of the BCCLA in a release.
Walia says the exclusion zone is a violation of both the Indigenous rights and Charter-protected rights of Wet’suwet’en people and their family members.
“The Wet’suwet’en assert continuous jurisdiction and unextinguished rights and land title, and the Charter protects liberty, mobility, freedom of the press, and the right not to be arbitrarily detained.”
A press conference was held at the UBCIC boardroom in Vancouver Wednesday, to address the ongoing situation.
According to Professor Margot Young, from the UBC Allard School of Law, the legal response needs to align with Canada’s commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) at the international level. At the provincial level, “bill 41 (UNDRIP) was passed by our own provincial government last month, and needs to be much more interactive consultative respectful and fully engaged with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs,” said Margot at the press conference.
At the press conference, BC Premier John Horgan was criticized for his response to the ongoing situation in Wet’suwet’en.
According to Harsha Walia, of the BCCLA, Nikal and Merriman were both separately denied entry by RCMP on Monday, January 13, and spent approximately three hours each at the RCMP exclusion zone attempting to transport food and critical winter supplies for people at the Gidimt’en camp.
“As they waited in -37 to -40 temperatures, they stayed because they were worried about people at Gidimt’en camp who were lawfully and peacefully asserting their presence on their territories not having food and winter supplies they needed,” said Walia.
In her complaint, Delee Alexis Nikal states, “it is a violation of our rights as Wet’suwet’en to be on our land, and a denial of our laws and systems.”
Walia says the exclusion zone is endangering Wet’suwet’en people.
“The RCMP is claiming and broad and vague powers of public safety despite no stated or identifiable threat,” says Walia.
“Rather, the exclusion zone places Wet’suwet’en people at risk, and their safety at risk, by controlling their access to food, medical supplies and emergency equipment.”
According to UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the provincial government and the RCMP should honour UNDRIP in their decisions and actions.
“For Wet’suwet’en people to be denied access to their own territories as a result of a police exclusion zone smacks of outright racism and the colonial-era pass system sanctioned by the so-called rule of law, which our people survived for far too long,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip in a release.
UN calls for immediate RCMP withdrawal in Wet’suwet’en standoff
By Sarah Cox The Narwhal January 9 2020
Experts say the world is watching to see if Canada heeds a call from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to immediately suspend work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Site C dam until ‘free, prior and informed consent’ is obtained from Indigenous peoples
In 1990, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip was at a Lil’wat Nation blockade to stop clear-cut logging and the expropriation of Mount Currie reserve land when he got a taste of how far governments in Canada are willing to go to prevent Indigenous people from protecting their lands.
“The sniper team came in in two Suburbans and went up onto the hillside and one of the Lil’wat Mount Currey band members came riding across the creek on his horse, quite panicked and warning us that there was a sniper team being deployed in the trees,” Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told The Narwhal.
“We had witnessed the Suburbans coming in, but he actually saw the sniper team disembark and take up positions,” Phillip recalled. “I know that to be a standard tactic on the part of the RCMP.”
As tensions escalate in the stand-off between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink — with the company posting a 72-hour injunction notice allowing the RCMP to arrest anyone blocking access to its work site as early as Friday — Phillip said there’s “an urgency” for Canada to heed a call from the United Nations and immediately halt pipeline construction on Wet’suwet’en lands and territories.
“It’s a precarious situation,” Phillip said, pointing to a recent article in The Guardian disclosing the RCMP was prepared to shoot Indigenous land defenders in the dispute over construction of the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline to ship fracked gas to LNG Canada’s export terminal in Kitimat.
In a move Phillip called a “significant development,” the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has issued a triple-barrelled decision calling on Canada to immediately suspend work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Site C dam until “free, prior and informed consent” is obtained from Indigenous peoples.
The committee urged Canada to immediately cease the forced eviction of Wet’suwet’en peoples who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline and Secwepemc peoples opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline, to prohibit the use of lethal weapons — notably by the RCMP — against Indigenous peoples and to guarantee no force will be used against them. It also urged the federal government to withdraw the RCMP, along with associated security and policing services, from traditional lands.
‘They are erasing our history’: Indigenous sites buried under Coastal GasLink pipeline infrastructure
By Amber Bracken The Narwhal January 14 2020
As the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en fight to stop the controversial $6.6 billion natural gas pipeline, the very landscape and cultural artifacts they aim to protect are being logged and bulldozed away
According to Wet’suwet’en oral history, the Kweese War Trail is lined with the buried bodies of warriors who lost their lives avenging the murder of Chief Kweese’s wife and son.
The trail — a place where Wet’suwet’en youth can literally walk in the footsteps of their ancestors — branches out to important ancestral sites spread throughout the traditional territory of the nation’s five clans.
But now a 100-metre portion of the trail, a critical piece of history for the Wet’suwet’en and the origin of some of their clan crests, and another potential archaeological site lie buried under work camps and clearcuts for the $6.6 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline, proposed to move fracked gas from B.C.’s northeast to Kitimat to feed LNG Canada’s $18 billion liquified natural gas (LNG) export facility and the province’s promise of a LNG export boom.
On Jan. 4 the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en issued an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink owned by TC Energy (formerly TransCanada), saying the company “bulldozed through our territories, destroyed our archaeological sites and occupied our land with industrial man-camps.” The eviction notice comes one year after the RCMP enforced a court injunction, forcibly removing and arresting Wet’suwet’en blockaders at a checkpoint designed to prevent the company from accessing work sites. That injunction was extended on Dec. 31, 2019, triggering the Wet’suwet’en eviction notice and raising the spectre of renewed tensions.