Wet’suwet’en seek legal observers of RCMP enforcement of injunction as February 6 deadline approaches

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On January 30, CBC reported, “The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the B.C. government have announced they will be in talks over the next seven days to de-escalate a standoff over the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern B.C.”

That timeline takes us to roughly Thursday February 6.

The Indigenous land defence Gidimt’en Checkpoint has commented, “A 7 day ceasefire….to solve a century old dispute.”

The CBC article highlights, “After de-escalation talks were announced, the police force told CBC News in an email that it would respect the seven-day period planned for discussions and would not enforce the court-ordered injunction.”

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet says, “While additional resources may be noted in the Smithers-Houston area, the resources will be on stand-by during the [seven-day] period.”

On January 31, the Burns Lake Lakes District News reported that three container units were installed outside the Community Hall in Houston on January 30 and that “eight more trailers appearing to be lodging units arrived at the hall” on January 31.

Furthermore, the RCMP have confirmed that it will maintain its checkpoint at the 27 kilometre mark on the Morice Forest Service Road, despite the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the British Columbia Human Rights Commission and others calling on them to leave Wet’suwet’en territory.

This seven-day period follows the news on January 27 of British Columbia Premier John Horgan appointing former NDP Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen as an intermediary between the Wet’suwe’ten hereditary chiefs, the province of British Columbia, the RCMP, Coastal GasLink and others.

Premier Horgan says, “I’m pleased all parties have agreed to the appointment of a liaison. Nathan has agreed to act as an intermediary in the hopes of finding a solution to this challenging dispute.”

Meanwhile, the National Observer reports, “In a letter dated Wednesday [January 29], the BCCLA [British Columbia Civil Liberties Association], Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs asked the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission — an independent arm’s-length agency that investigates complaints against the RCMP — to open a special investigation into the mounties’ conduct on Wet’suwet’en territory.”

BCCLA executive director Harsha Walia says, “We are urging the [complaints commission] chairperson to launch a chairperson-initiated complaint and public interest investigation regarding the improper and unlawful actions of the RCMP in implementing and enforcing a checkpoint and exclusion zone on Morice West Forest Service Road in Wet’suwet’en territory.”

The article continues, “The BCCLA said the RCMP’s blockade is both arbitrary and illegal, citing sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protect freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association and Indigenous land rights.”

“The checkpoint is also a violation of Inuk Nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law), the letter says.”

“The RCMP initially said the roadblock was meant to monitor who was going in and out of the remote area for safety reasons, citing fallen trees and harsh weather. …The BCCLA, however, said the RCMP don’t have the authority to operate the checkpoint, even with the powers granted by the injunction.”

That article also notes, “Right now, the Wet’suwet’en and the RCMP are at a stalemate. As the Wet’suwet’en bring in legal observers — people trained to be witnesses — to prepare for a possible enforcement of the injunction, the RCMP have been flying surveillance planes over the area. The Mounties initially denied they were doing so, but admitted it to a Vice reporter after photo evidence surfaced online.”

Vice has reported, “On Friday morning [January 24], lawyers Noah Ross and Irina Ceric ran a training session for legal observers, instructing a group of Wet’suwet’en supporters in how best to document and record police actions.”

Additionally, on January 29, CBC reported that Wet’suwet’en land defenders have established a third camp – this one 500 metres before the RCMP checkpoint – which means “visitors, including activists, can enter the area without being questioned or turned away by police.”

To apply to be a legal observer please click here. For the protocol and application form to visit the camp, click here. For daily updates on the situation, please follow the Unist’ot’en Camp and Gidimt’en Checkpoint on Twitter.

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