British Columbia grants permission for pipeline construction near Unist’ot’en Healing Centre
Photo: Karla Tait, Unist’ot’en healing centre clinical services director, arrested by the RCMP on February 10. Photo by Amber Bracken/The Narwhal.
The Tyee reports: “The province’s Environmental Assessment Office has granted [TC Energy-owned] Coastal GasLink permission to begin pipeline construction near the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre [which is] located a kilometre from the pipeline route.”
The article adds: “The healing centre is also located on the road leading to Coastal GasLink’s 9A Lodge work camp, and an influx of workers has raised concerns about the connection between work camps and missing and murdered Indigenous women.”
The Tyee further reports that clearing and grading of the pipeline route is expected to begin through the area in September.
Earlier this summer, the Unist’ot’en Camp posted that they will be “holding a summer work camp to repair and build urgently needed infrastructure around the Healing Centre” from August 25 to September 7 “to ensure the Unist’ot’en can continue their crucial healing work.”
Karla Tait, the director clinical programs at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, and Anne Spice, an Indigenous feminist and anti-colonial organizer, have written: “Indigenous peoples carry the pain of genocide, of intergenerational and current traumatic experiences, coupled with inequities in the social determinants of health.”
Tait and Space add: “The over-representation of Indigenous people with mental health conditions, addictions, incarceration and suicidality indicate that many cannot cope with the heavy burdens of colonization.”
The Unist’ot’en have affirmed: “The healing programming depends on connection to, and traditional use of, the land itself. All of Talbits Kwah territory is required for hunting, trapping, gathering medicines, berry picking, and visiting cultural ceremonial sites.”
And yet this healing centre now risks being within a kilometre of a fracked gas pipeline that lacks the consent of the Wet’suwet’en and within 13 kilometres of a man camp that would house hundreds of workers for the pipeline.
The final report by National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (June 2019) quoted James Anaya, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, on the issue of these work camps.
Anaya said: “Indigenous women have reported that the influx of workers into indigenous communities as a result of extractive projects [have] led to increased incidents of sexual harassment and violence, including rape and assault.”
The Inquiry found that “work camps, or man camps, associated with the resource extraction industry are implicated in higher rates of violence against Indigenous women at the camps and in the neighbouring communities.”
Wet’suwet’en territories have now been subjected to two militarized RCMP (federal police) raids and an ongoing occupation enforcing problematic and skewed court injunctions allowing construction of the pipeline.
On January 8, 2019, fourteen land defenders were arrested for blocking the access of Coastal GasLink pipeline workers to Wet’suwet’en territory. RCMP commanders instructed officers to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want”.
And on February 6, 2020, a second RCMP raid resulted in the arrest of six land defenders, followed by eleven more arrests on February 9. Then on February 10, seven women, including Karla Tait from the healing centre, were arrested by the RCMP while holding a ceremony to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
For updates on this present situation, please see the Unist’ot’en Camp Facebook page. For the application form for the August 25 to September 7 work camp in support of the healing centre, please see Unist’ot’en 2020 Summer Work Camp.