21 land defenders and human rights observers arrested during RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory
On Thursday February 6, Canadian police began a military-style assault on the unceded territory of the Wet’suwet’en nation in northern British Columbia.
The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have not given their free, prior and informed consent to the TC Energy (TransCanada) Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on their territory and had evicted the transnational corporation from their traditional lands.
As noted on the map at the bottom of this article to help situate what has been happening over the past three days, the key sites are the supporters camp/warming centre at 27 kilometres on the Morice West Forest Service Road (just outside the original RCMP exclusion zone), the Wet’suwet’en checkpoint camp at 39 kilometres, the Gidimt’en checkpoint at 44 kilometres, and the Unist’ot’en healing centre at 66 kilometres.
This morning (Sunday February 9) CBC reports, “By Saturday night, police had arrested a total of 21 people. Eleven of those people were arrested on Saturday at a site referred to as the warming centre [at 27 kilometres], after police announced it had become part of an expanded exclusion zone.”
The RCMP exclusion zone, originally at 27 kilometres, now reportedly begins at 4 kilometres on the Morice West Forest Service Road near the junction with Highway 16.
The arrest of human rights observers
Yesterday, Steve Heinrichs tweeted, “My CPT [Christian Peacemaker Team] colleagues Chuck [Charles Wright] and Nan [Natalie Maxon] were illegally arrested in Wet’suwet’en territory. Legal observers were not violating the court injunction. And they were present at the invitation of the Title holders [the Hereditary Chiefs].”
Member of Parliament Leah Gazan also tweeted, “Just found out that my dear friend Charlie Wright from CPT, who was at Wet’suwet’en as a peaceful legal observer was arrested today. This raises deeper concerns for me about the actions being taken on the territory when observers are prevented from observing.”
On Thursday February 6 at 7:53 am, the first day of the RCMP raid, the Unist’ot’en camp had also tweeted, “Everyone at 39 km has been arrested, including peaceful witnesses and observers. This in the pitch black of night as the sun is just rising now in Wet’suwet’en yintah [traditional lands].”
Journalists threatened with arrest
On Thursday February 6, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) tweeted this 20-second video and stated, “The CAJ has verified numerous reports that the #RCMP have threatened to arrest #cdnmedia journalists at #Wetsuweten Territory for taking photos. We remind @BCRCMPMedia that Canada is not a police state. Police do not have the right to control what is published.”
CAJ adds, “We are reaching out to other human rights and media rights groups to protect a free press across Canada. Journalists have the right to keep the public informed.”
Amnesty International has also expressed its concern in this statement: RCMP crackdown on journalists in Wet’suwet’en territory threatens free press.
Day 4: the Unist’ot’en healing village
This Sunday morning, CBC reports, “As the injunction enforcement continues for the fourth day, there remains one main site where police have yet to take action — the Uniost’ot’en healing village.”
The Tyee has reported that two helicopters dropped RCMP officers just outside the gate to the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre around 11 am PST on Saturday February 8. The photo at the top of this article, tweeted by the Unist’ot’en camp, shows one of those helicopters at the bridge near the healing centre.
That article notes, “Freda Huson, the director of the healing centre, donned regalia as the helicopters arrived, including a blanket representing the land. Women from the healing centre headed to the gate to the camp with her and began a ceremony.”
Resource extraction, violence against women
The Tyee adds, “RCMP officers who arrived at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre were greeted by dozens of red dresses hung along the road under a clear blue sky. Karla Tait, director of clinical services at the healing centre, said the dresses have become a symbol of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada.”
“Coastal GasLink was building a work camp to house up to 400 people when hereditary chiefs closed the West Morice Forest Service Road, Tait said. The camp is about 20 kilometres along the road from the healing centre.”
“The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, released last year, dedicates a chapter to resource extraction projects and their impact on Indigenous women.”
That report states, “This increased rate of violence is largely the result of the migration into the camps of mostly non-Indigenous young men with high salaries and little to no stake in the host Indigenous community.”
The CBC has previously reported, “A 2014 report by the RCMP concluded 1,017 aboriginal women had been slain between 1980 and 2012, and that another 164 were considered missing. Canada’s minister for the status of women suggests the number of missing and murdered indigenous women could be as high as 4,000, but a dearth of hard data means it’s all but impossible to pinpoint an accurate figure.”
Hereditary chiefs seek judicial review
The Narwhal reports that Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs filed a request for a judicial review of the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office decision to extend the environmental certificate for the pipeline “in light of more than 50 instances of non-compliance with the conditions of Coastal GasLink permits and in light of the findings of Canada’s National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.”
That article also highlights, “The inquiry found there is ‘substantial evidence’ that natural resource projects increase violence against Indigenous women and children and two-spirit individuals.”
The Unist’ot’en released this statement on Saturday night that reads:
“International public support is called for to ensure the safety of the Healing Centre.”
“We urge Canada to adhere to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) directives and to halt the Coastal Gaslink project, seek Free, Prior, and Informed Consent from the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, withdraw RCMP from our territories and ensure that no lethal weapons or force be used to forcibly evict Wet’suwet’en people from our lands.”
Social media updates
Map for The Tyee by Andrew Walsh.