Accompanying Dene Suline youth travelling to the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre
On November 20, we accompanied four Dene Suline youth to the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre located 66 kilometres down the Morice River Forest Service Road.
The road begins near the town of Houston in northern British Columbia, approximately 1,000 kilometres north of Vancouver.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had established an “exclusion zone” at the 29-kilometre mark on the road, said they were “conducting roving patrols” on it, and arrested more than 30 people on November 18 and 19 on the road (including at 44 and 63 kilometres).
The road is also heavily used by Coastal GasLink with trucks regularly seen up and down the narrow gravel road.
The drive to the healing centre was without incident.
The Unist’ot’en built the centre to “fulfill their vision of a culturally-safe healing program, centered on the healing properties of the land.”
Karla Tait, the director of clinical programming at the centre, says: “It is a chance to return to some of our traditional teachings and land-based wellness practices of our ancestors. Our people have been impacted by intergenerational trauma and disconnected from those practices.”
On February 10, 2020, the RCMP arrested seven people, including Tait, while they were in ceremony near the centre.
The Tyee reported: “Police, including tactical squad officers armed with rifles and handlers with dogs, arrived in a convoy of more than 30 vehicles as a helicopter circled overhead. They were greeted by a group of women drumming and singing beside a ceremonial fire.”
The Wet’suwet’en oppose the construction of the TC Energy Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on their territory. It lacks their free, prior and informed consent.
Heavily armed police raids in January 2019, February 2020 and now November 2021 have resulted in the arrests of 68 people peacefully defending this land.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on Canada to stop construction on the pipeline and remove the RCMP from the territory.
Prior to the November 2021 raid, the RCMP has spent almost $20 million to enable pipeline construction to continue against the wishes of the land defenders.
For more context, please see Canadian police launch third militarized raid against Wet’suwet’en land defenders and Canadian police continue raid on Wet’suwet’en territory as United Nations resolution calling for their removal is ignored.