How did the RCMP stage their raid against land defenders on Wet’suwet’en territory?
Gidimt’en Checkpoint video still of RCMP at 44 km on November 19.
On Wednesday November 17, Gidimt’en Checkpoint tweeted: “A charter plane full of RCMP has landed at the Smithers airport, with between 30 and 50 officers… Police loaded onto two buses and unmarked, rental pick-up trucks and headed out towards the yintah.”
The following day, Thursday November 18, the RCMP arrested 15 people on the yintah. The day after, Friday November 19, they arrested another 15 people.
What is the state infrastructure that enabled this repression of a peaceful land defence struggle against the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline being built on Wet’suwet’en territory without free, prior and informed consent?
The C-IRG, ERT and CISO
Both the RCMP Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) along with green-garbed, heavily-armed Emergency Response Team (ERT) tactical officers were deployed against unarmed Indigenous land defenders and allies.
Gidimt’en camp media coordinator Jennifer Wickham has previously noted: “[The RCMP] have a specific division, who are on the Community Industry Response Group (CIRG), who work out of the Community Industry Safety Office (CISO).”
Wickham adds: “RCMP officers volunteer and request to be on this team – so we get the gung-ho guys, who have specially requested to come out there and harass us.”
That CISO is located at the 29 kilometre-mark on the Morice River Forest Service Road on Wet’suwet’en territory.
Its trailers served as a base for about 20 RCMP officers.
The Guardian has reported: “Since the January 2019 raid, an RCMP detachment known as the Community Industry Safety Office has maintained a large presence in an effort to forestall any resistance to pipeline construction.”
On February 23, 2020, after the second RCMP raid, CBC reported: “RCMP in British Columbia moved its officers out of an outpost on Wet’suwet’en territory to a nearby detachment on Friday [February 21] but won’t stop patrolling the area.”
While the officers were moved, the CISO itself was not dismantled and removed. It remains operational and ready to be used by the police.
The logistics of the RCMP action against the land defenders
Notably, while a generator could be heard and the road had been ploughed, the CISO appeared to be vacant – no cars, no lights on in the trailers – on Sunday November 21.
However, that same day the same make of white school buses photographed transporting police from the Smithers airport on November 17 were seen emerging from the Coastal GasLink man camp at 27 kilometres on the Morice River Forest Service Road.
This also prompts questions about where the RCMP staged their raids and if the CGL camp was used in any way by the police during the two days of arrests.
The Community Industry Safety Office (CISO) on Wet’suwet’en territory, November 21, 2021.
UN calls for RCMP to leave Wet’suwet’en territory
RCMP raids in January 2019, February 2020 and now November 2021 have resulted in the arrests of 68 people peacefully defending this land.
After that first raid, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Canada to remove the RCMP “and associated security and policing services” from the territory.
That did not happen.
Even with the reallocation of officers, but not dismantling and removal of the CISO on Wet’suwet’en territory, the RCMP presence on the yintah has continued.
Karla Tait of the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre has commented: “Moving those officers 20-odd kilometres down the road and at the same time increasing the patrols on our unceded territory is not meeting that demand in the slightest.”
And on the Sunday before the Thursday-Friday raids this year, the RCMP stated they would “conduct roving patrols” in the area.
The costs of occupation
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.
That figure would be significantly higher now.
Beyond dollar figures, Gidimt’en land defender Sleydo’, who is currently in prison in Prince George awaiting trial on Monday November 22 after her arrest this past week, has previously stated: “We want to live free on our lands, without the constant threat of violence by CIRG, who are illegally occupying Gidimt’en territory.”
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