CPJ and CAJ call for the release of two Canadian journalists arrested covering Wet’suwet’en land defence struggle
On November 20, the Committee to Protect Journalists tweeted: “CPJ calls on Canadian police to release detained journalists Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano. @BCRCMP arrested and detained the two journalists while they were covering land rights protests in northern B.C.”
Katherine Jacobsen of the CPJ says: “We are alarmed by the overnight detention of two journalists by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The RCMP should immediately release Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano and offer a full explanation as to why they were detained in the first place.”
Additionally, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) has tweeted: “The CAJ demands @BCRCMP immediately release Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano from police custody with their belongings. We also call on @marcomendicino to instruct the RCMP to drop any charges.”
Brent Jolly of the CAJ says: “The RCMP has gone outside the law in its efforts to prevent the press from covering events taking place in the public interest. It is an absolute disgrace. …This militarized police force, and others, continue to arrest journalists despite the fact that doing so is illegal, knowing charges will never stick.”
The CAJ statement notes: “The RCMP stated the reason for arresting the two was because they had ’embedded’ with the protestors, which has never been illegal in Canada.”
It explains: “Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Derek Green affirmed these rights when he found in favour of journalist Justin Brake who faced criminal and civil charges after spending several days inside the Muskrat Falls site covering a protest that shut work down at the project in 2016. The civil charges were dismissed in 2019 by Justice Green. The criminal charges, too, were subsequently dropped.”
Beyond Bracken and Toledano, the RCMP detained independent filmmaker Melissa Cox on Thursday November 18. She was reportedly released without charges.
We are alerting Irene Khan (the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression), Ms. Mary Lawlor (Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders) and Clément Voule (Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association) to this situation.
The criminalization of Indigenous land defenders
About 30 land defenders were arrested by the police on November 18-19. We also call for their unconditional release and the dropping of all charges against them.
Calgary-based TC Energy is building the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia without free, prior and informed consent.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has previously called on the Canadian government to halt construction on the pipeline, seek consent, and remove the RCMP and “associated security and policing services” from Wet’suwet’en lands.
For additional context, please see Canadian police continue raid on Wet’suwet’en territory as United Nations resolution calling for their removal is ignored.