RCMP set up exclusion zone on Wet’suwet’en territory, federal Minister says “it depends” what will happen next
Photo by Gidimt’en Checkpoint.
On Sunday November 14, Wet’suwet’en land defenders issued this evacuation order to Coastal GasLink workers on their territory and ten hours later blocked the Morice River Forest Service Road, a main access road onto their lands.
They have stated that this action was taken to protect the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) headwaters and in accordance with Wet’suwet’en laws that predate Canada as well as the Supreme Court of Canada ruling recognizing their title to these lands.
On Monday November 15, Mike Farnworth, the provincial Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General in British Columbia, responded by criminalizing them. He said: “The right to protest does not extend to criminal actions.”
Then just after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday November 16, Marc Miller, the federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said “it depends” when asked by a reporter if the situation will escalate as it did in early 2020.
In February 2020 a militarized raid by the RCMP resulted in the arrest of 22 land defenders. The Tyee reported: “More than 40 officers arrived at the Gidimt’en camp … in two helicopters and a dozen police vehicles… People at the Gidimt’en camp said the RCMP force included tactical squad officers armed with rifles.”
While seemingly implicitly suggesting that could happen again, Miller adds: “I do not exclude at the same time that we can settle peacefully.”
Hours after Miller’s statement, Gidimt’en Checkpoint tweeted: “RCMP Are Blocking Food And Medical Supplies From Wet’suwet’en Homes. The RCMP are openly violating the human rights of the Wet’suwet’en people again.”
Their series of tweets adds: “The driver of a vehicle carrying food and medical supplies was blocked by an arbitrary illegal police exclusion zone and threatened with arrest.”
This despite the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urging Canada to “guarantee that no force will be used against Wet’suwet’en peoples and that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and associated security and policing services will be withdrawn from their traditional lands.”
The Canadian Press further reports: “Miller says there is a window in the next week or so for a resolution to be reached but specified it will require ‘good minds’ to come together and provide solutions that address the issues at play.”
The timeline of “the next week or so” is notable.
In 2020, there was a 10-day period between Farnworth authorizing an “internal redeployment” of police resources and the start of the RCMP raid.
A spokesperson for Miller also highlighted: “The Coastal GasLink project and the [RCMP’s] E Division are under provincial jurisdiction.” As such, the provincial minister describing the Wet’suwet’en blockade as a “criminal action” is additionally worrisome.
Peace Brigades International-Canada will be travelling to Wet’suwet’en territory this week and reporting on the situation at the blockade this weekend.