$13.1 million for RCMP actions against Wet’suwet’en land defenders is “a tremendous waste of money”: Hereditary Chief Na’moks

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’moks says it is “a tremendous waste of money.”

According to documents obtained by CBC News reporter Chantelle Bellrichard, $13.1 million of public funds have been spent on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) presence on Wet’suwet’en territory to facilitate the construction of the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline between January 2019 and March 2020.

The TC Energy-owned pipeline would cross 190 kilometres of Wet’suwet’en territory without the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en peoples.

The cost breakdown of the RCMP presence on Wet’suwet’en territory is $3.6 million for the fiscal year 2018/2019 and $9.5 million in 2019/2020.

These dates include the January 7, 2019 and the February 6-10, 2020 RCMP actions against unarmed Wet’suwet’en land defenders.

Notes from a RCMP strategy session prior to the January 2019 raid show that RCMP commanders argued that “lethal overwatch is req’d” and that officers were instructed to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” ahead of the operation to remove a roadblock established by Wet’suwet’en land defenders.

On December 13, 2019, the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination passed a resolution calling for the RCMP to be withdrawn from the traditional lands of the Wet’suwet’en, but within weeks the British Columbia (BC) government approved the funds for a second RCMP raid against the land defenders.

While mainstream media reports have focused on the fact that the RCMP were acting on court issued injunctions against the land defenders, they rarely cite the often repeated concerns about how injunctions are skewed against land defenders nor, as First Peoples Law argues, that Canadian law should be on the side of the Wet’suwet’en.

The RCMP fall under the responsibility of federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. When the RCMP are contracted to do policing in BC they also fall under the responsibility of provincial Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

Under 20-year agreements signed in 2012, provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services.

On January 27, 2020, Farnworth wrote Jennifer Strachan (the commanding officer of the RCMP in BC) that he authorized the “internal redeployment of resources within the Provincial Police Services” on Wet’suwet’en lands in order to “maintain law and order, and to ensure the safety of persons, property and communities in the area.”

Days later the RCMP raid against the Wet’suwet’en began.

The CBC notes: “The province did not respond to a question about whether a similar authorization was made with respect to the first enforcement operation.”

While BC Premier John Horgan has stated, in response to mounting criticisms of human rights violations, that his government does not direct the RCMP, he has also said the pipeline is vital to securing a liquefied natural gas industry and will be built.

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