Secwepemc land defender Kanahus Manuel highlights the need for security for land defenders
In this recent interview, Secwepemc land defender Kanahus Manuel shared with Ojibway artist Isaac Murdoch the need for security for land defenders:
“I really like what Amnesty International and some of those international organizations do by providing security for Native land defenders in South America. They don’t have that here, but we need to be able to provide it for our own land defenders to be able to have security for women and people, Elders who do want to go out and defend land, but they don’t have the security needed to do it because violence comes to us. We’re not asking for it, but it’s coming from the police, it’s coming from the Crown, it’s coming from the corporation, their workers, it’s also coming from just regular civilians that are just white supremacists who want to come with their hate.”
Manuel is a land defender who has mobilized to have Tiny Houses situated on unceded Secwepemc territory in British Columbia to block the construction of the 890,000 barrel per day Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline that would cross 518 kilometres of that territory without free, prior and informed consent.
By asserting Secwepemc territory, Manuel and other land defenders have experienced criminalization, judicialization, threats and harassment.
Most recently, a large swath of forest and blueberry fields was clearcut directly across from the Tiny House Warriors village at Blue River for the construction of the Blue River Camp Community, a man camp for up to 550 men working on the pipeline.
Manuel has tweeted about harassment and intimidation by those involved in the pre-construction phase of the Blue River camp. She has also drawn attention to the fact that one of the company security officers at the Blue River site is a former RCMP police officer.
Accompaniment in Canada
Last year, Peace Brigades International was able to carry out 505 physical accompaniments of defenders in Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, but does not yet have the capacity to provide physical accompaniments for defenders of territories in Canada.
We received inquiries in January 2020 about a possible presence on Wet’suwet’en territories in British Columbia prior to the RCMP raid against land defenders opposed to the TC Energy Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline, as well as in May 2020 at the time of settler mob violence against Mi’kmaq lobster fishers who were asserting their Treaty and inherent rights in New Brunswick.
Over the past two years, PBI-Canada has been exploring ways to expand our capacity to do more in Canada, as well as highlighting the similarities faced by land defenders in Latin America and Turtle Island, amplifying Indigenous land defence struggles in this country, and seeing if it might be possible to have people with experience in Latin America provide security trainings for land defenders here.
We will continue to work on this.
To watch the 1-hour conversation between Manuel and Murdoch on the Secwepemc land defence struggle, please click here.
Please note this upcoming event. It is also possible, as mentioned in the conversation linked above, that some of these sessions could be available online.
An example of PBI’s physical accompaniment of Indigenous water protectors in Honduras.