Did the RCMP decide to raid Wet’suwet’en territory before the Hereditary Chiefs’ evacuation order was radioed to CGL workers?
Photo by Dan Loan, November 18, 2021.
The lack of transparency on the part of the British Columbia government and the RCMP, specifically on the timeline of their decision to raid Wet’suwet’en territory and arrest Indigenous land defenders and journalists, raises concerning questions.
Timing of the raid
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 equipped with camo duffel bags.” The following days – Thursday November 18 and Friday November 19 – an RCMP raid arrested Wet’suwet’en land defenders, allies and journalists.
BC government authorizes raid, but when?
Prior to this, on Wednesday November 3, the provincial Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth told the British Columbia Legislature: “Politicians — and in particular, the Minister of Solicitor General — do not direct police in terms of how they operationalize the issues that they are dealing with.”
But now, on December 2, Brett Forester of APTN News reports: “The British Columbia government authorized an RCMP request for increased police presence on Wet’suwet’en territory to crack down on pipeline resistance for the third straight year, according to the Mountie who planned the operation.”
He adds: “It isn’t clear when Farnworth greenlit the latest redeployment because his office declined to answer emailed questions from Nation to Nation.”
While the date of that authorization isn’t specified, the article continues: “The decision was made before the destructive extreme weather hit, according to Chief Supt. John Brewer [the gold commander for the Community-Industry Response Group].”
When did the extreme weather hit?
It was around Thursday November 11-Friday November 12 that meteorologists began warning that an extreme rainstorm was on its way.
The heavy rains in British Columbia began on Saturday November 13, so the suggestion is that the decision was made before that date.
Notably, it was not until Sunday November 14 that the Gidimt’en Clan radioed the Mandatory Evacuation Order for Coastal GasLink workers to leave Wet’suwet’en territory.
And it was on Monday November 15, that Gidimt’en Checkpoint tweeted: “The Morice River FSR has been disabled, blocking trespassers from our yintah!”
On Tuesday November 16, Marc Miller, the federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said “it depends” when asked by a reporter if the situation will escalate as it did with the RCMP raid in 2020.
As such, while the RCMP highlighted on Thursday November 18 that their raid was “an effort to rescue hundreds of workers who have been blocked in their camp by contemnors” as of Sunday November 14 or Monday November 15, Brewer’s comments that “the decision was made before the destructive extreme weather hit” on Saturday November 13 raises questions about the justification and the decision-making timeline.
While the RCMP could argue that the provincial state of emergency was declared on Wednesday November 17 thus marking the date of when “the destructive extreme weather hit”, that seems less logistically possible given that was also the day that the chartered aircraft with RCMP officers landed in Smithers in advance of the raid.
While Farnworth has not disclosed when he authorized the redeployment of the RCMP, some transparency from his office would be helpful in the public interest to better understand what transpired on Wet’suwet’en territory last month.