The House of Commons fails Wet’suwet’en land defenders and water protectors

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: The House of Commons on November 22, while Wet’suwet’en land defenders and allies were being held at the Prince George Regional Correctional Centre.

The House of Commons resumed sitting just days after a militarized RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory in which 30 people were arrested.

That raid – on Thursday November 18 and Friday November 19 – involved RCMP officers with machine guns, attack dogs and helicopters.

How was that reflected in the House of Commons sitting that began on Monday November 22 while land defenders and journalists were still being held in jail?

The Speech from the Throne, read by Mary Simon, this country’s first Indigenous Governor General, made no reference to the Wet’suwet’en. Instead, without conscious irony, it highlighted the need for “breaking down barriers”.

The first direct mention of the situation didn’t come until Wednesday November 24, when Conservative leader Erin O’Toole stated: “The Coastal GasLink project has agreements with 20 indigenous communities in B.C.”

The Prime Minister responded: “We will continue to move forward in a way that is led by and guided by the partnerships with indigenous peoples across this country.”

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s opening question that day noted: “We are in a climate crisis and we need to act urgently.”

And yet while the Coastal GasLink pipeline would produce 125 million metric tons of carbon pollution on annual basis, Singh supports the CGL project.

It wasn’t until Thursday November 25 that NDP MP Taylor Bacharach stated: “Mr. Speaker, last week, militarized police once again descended on Wet’suwet’en territory. The world watched as unarmed indigenous women were arrested at gunpoint. I have heard from dozens of indigenous leaders who are horrified by what happened.”

Bacharach then asked: “To the minister responsible for the RCMP, do the events of November 19 reflect his view of how Canada should engage with indigenous people on their lands and, if not, what is he going to do to review RCMP conduct?”

While Liberal MP Marco Mendicino responded with “concern at the way in which the operation was conducted in the Wet’suwet’en territory”, there was no firm promise to address the violence, only “our job will be to ensure that there is alignment between the values and the principles that underscore the responsibilities of the RCMP and those operations.”

That day, NDP MP Niki Ashton also briefly noted: “We must stand with land protectors such as those on Wet’suwet’en territory.”

Then on Friday November 26, Green MP Mike Morrice presented a petition that calls for “halting all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on Wet’suwet’en territory and ordering the RCMP to dismantle its exclusion zone and stand down.”

Bacharach’s question and Mendicino’s response (71 seconds in length), Morrice’s tabling of the petition (that took 39 seconds), and Ashton’s expression of support (about 3 seconds), means that there was less than 2-minutes of airtime in the House of Commons given to the violence against the Wet’suwet’en.

Some MPs took to Twitter, notably NDP MP Leah Gazan.

Among Gazan’s multiple tweets on this situation, she wrote: “Genocide against indigenous peoples upholding their rights and sovereignty is so normalized in Canada that when videos are released of doors being taken down with axes and chainsaws by militarized RCMP, it’s not a breaking news story. That is called normalized genocide!”

It could also be said that the paucity of debate in the House of Commons this week reflects a normalization of state violence in that institution too.

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