Ontario NDP MPPs Sol Mamakwa and Joel Harden call for end to RCMP violence against Wet’suwet’en land defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Sol Mamakwa, Joel Harden

On December 1, Ontario NDP Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Joel Harden tweeted: “Reconciliation doesn’t happen at the barrel of a gun. The RCMP must leave Wet’suwet’en lands, nation-to-nation talks need to start, and construction of a pipeline on unceded territory without free, prior and informed consent must halt.”

In his speech to the Legislature, Harden also highlighted his concern that “millions of dollars can be found to send the RCMP into Wet’suwet’en lands with snipers and police dogs.”

And Harden noted: “As the member for Kiiwetinoong has said, the law is very clear: Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are the title holders of their land. They have a right to refuse development on their lands despite agreements signed by other parties.”

In his intervention on November 24, Sol Mamakwa, the MPP for Kiiwetinoong, stated: “The violent dispossession of First Nations people from their land for the purpose of resource development is a foundation Canada was built upon.”

Two days later, Mamakwa released this statement on behalf of the Ontario NDP that notes: “The land defenders at Wet’suwet’en are not criminals and should not be treated as such. Their forceful detention must be denounced for what it is. It is time for respect, dialogue and a peaceful resolution in the homelands of the Wet’suwet’en peoples.”

Second eviction notice given to MLA Nathan Cullen

Harden’s intervention in the Ontario Legislature happened on the same day as a second eviction notice was presented to Nathan Cullen, the Minister of State for Lands and Resource Operations in British Columbia’s NDP government.

Git’luuhl’um’hetxwit Media has also highlighted on Facebook that Cullen was asked to: “denounce the use of injunctions and RCMP enforcement which violently inhibit Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan peoples from exercising constitutionally protected title and rights in areas within the yintah and lax’yip [territories].”

The first eviction notice was posted at Cullen’s constituency office in Hazelton by Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs on November 28.

Concerns have also been expressed about the comments made by Murray Rankin, the provincial Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, that fail to adequately hold accountable the RCMP for violence against land defenders.

Lessons from the police killing of land defender Dudley George

The criminalization and use of police violence against Indigenous land defenders is a notable issue in Ontario.

On September 6, 1995, Indigenous land defender Dudley George was killed by an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) sniper while occupying his traditional territory from which his peoples had been dispossessed for a military base.

key recommendation of the Inquiry into his death was: “The provincial government should invite the federal government to participate in interministerial ‘blockade’ committees to inform and coordinate governmental responses to Aboriginal occupations and protests when a potential federal interest is engaged.”

This suggests political resolutions should be pursued, not an armed police response that can result in the death of a land defender.

And yet, on October 22, 2020, the OPP fired rubber bullets at Six Nations land defenders opposing a housing development on their lands.

The following day, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, rather than denouncing this police violence, shifted blame onto the Indigenous land defenders: “It’s unfortunate we have a couple bad apples causing problems.”

PBI-Canada expresses profound concern about the OPP violence against Haudenosaunee land defenders, all three RCMP militarized raids against the Wet’suwet’en and that the death of Dudley George has not resulted in systemic changes in how the state interacts with Indigenous land defence struggles.

On September 10, 2020, provincial MPPs Suze Morrison and Sol Mamakwa and federal MP Matthew Green visited Haudenosaunee land defender Skyler Williams at the 1492LandBackLane resistance to land theft in southern Ontario. Williams was arrested by the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory on November 18 of this year.

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