Canadian police were prepared shoot Indigenous land defenders opposed to megaproject on their territory

Published by Brent Patterson on

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In 2018, 164 land defenders were killed while protecting their land and ecosystems from destructive extractivist industries.

Nearly one quarter of those killed were Indigenous.

Many of those killed were in the Latin American countries where Peace Brigades International accompanies human rights defenders. 24 land defenders were killed in Colombia, 16 in Guatemala, 14 in Mexico, and 4 in Honduras.

The Guardian now reports, “Canadian police were prepared to shoot Indigenous land defenders blockading construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia… The RCMP commanders also instructed officers to ‘use as much violence toward the gate as you want’… The RCMP were [also] prepared to arrest children and grandparents…”

This despite, the article notes, police intelligence reporting “no single threat indicating that [land defenders] will use firearms.”

That raid on unceded Indigenous territory took place on January 7, 2019.

Ralph Goodale was the federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (which oversees the RCMP) at the time of the raid. The current minister is Bill Blair.

The Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline was approved by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. It is being built to transport the gas to the LNG Canada marine export terminal in Kitimat, which was approved by the National Energy Board.

The injunction that allowed the raid on the Unist’ot’en and Gitdumt’en checkpoints was approved by British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church.

The United Nations and human rights

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz has stated, “Disregard of indigenous rights of traditional lands ownership breeds tensions, subsequent violence and criminalization, as indigenous peoples become trespassers or illegal occupants of their own lands.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation Léo Heller adds, “Human rights defenders advocating the rights of those affected by mega-projects have faced harassment, physical assault, bodily injuries, and even death.”

And the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst has commented, “[The killing of human rights defenders is] an epidemic which is spreading as business tries to conquer new markets, as natural resources are found in areas that had been until then untouched.”

Forst highlighted, “States must go to the root of environmental conflicts, such as imbalance of power, making nature into a commodity, impunity and the current development model in order to ensure long-term solutions.”

To read the full article in The Guardian by Jaskiran Dhillon and Will Parrish, please go to Exclusive: Canada police prepared to shoot Indigenous activists, documents show.

Photo by Michael Toledano.

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