Specialized police/army units in Canada and Colombia protect resource extraction projects from land defenders
Just before the RCMP raid against Wet’suwet’en land defenders in February 2020, this march in Ottawa said “RCMP off Wet’suwet’en land”. Photo by Brent Patterson.
Wet’suwet’en land defender Sleydo’ has described the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) as a specialized group of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) that deal specifically with industry and Indigenous land defenders.
C-IRG officers have been deployed against land defenders and water protectors opposed to the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory and the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline on Secwepemc territory.
They have also been deployed to stop defenders opposed to old-growth logging at Fairy Creek on Pacheedaht and Ditidaht territory, the Site C hydroelectric dam on Treaty 8 lands, and an industrial fish farm endangering wild salmon in Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw and Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwamis waters.
To date, the RCMP have made 79 arrests on Wet’suwet’en territory in the land defence struggle against the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Following her arrest by C-IRG officers last November, Sleydo’ highlighted the need for both the RCMP and C-IRG to be abolished.
In Colombia, there are Energy, Mining and Transport Battalions.
Several years ago, War Resisters’ International highlighted: “Their growth has accompanied the policy of attracting foreign investment in the sector from multinational corporations for the implementation of the neoliberal extractive policy.”
Those multinational corporations include Canadian companies.
The article further explains: “A number of these battalions are located within the premises of the companies or mines, as in the case of Military Battalion 15, located since October 2011 within the oilfields of the transnational Pacific Rubiales, in Puerto Gaitán, where the company also provides vehicles and fuel.”
In 2017, Pacific Exploration & Production Corporation rebranded itself as Frontera Energy Corporation, which is based in Calgary.
Frontera continues to operate in Colombia and in November 2018 signed two agreements with the Ministry of Defence for a total of US $1,343,106 to secure army protection for its activities. Days after those contracts were signed, a police and military operation arrested eight social leaders in San Luis de Palenque who had been protesting against the environmental and community impacts of Frontera’s operations.
In December 2019, then UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst expressed concern about the “apparent connection” between Frontera and the Army’s 16th Brigade.
At least as far back as 1993, the 16th Brigade has been “charged with defending oil drilling operations” and “assigned specifically to protect BP’s oil installations.”
The WRI article also notes: “Another significant case relates to the Army’s aiding the entry of the Muriel Mining Corporation in Norte del Chocó, where it supported the company’s activities despite a fraudulent public consultation.”
Muriel began exploration of the Indigenous Embera peoples sacred Jaikatuma mountain in January 2009 reportedly escorted by Colombian Army helicopters.
While a court ruling eventually stopped that mining exploration, there are concerns that the Vancouver-based MCC Mining Corporation is now seeking to mine in the area.
In October 2021, this Open Letter from eight organizations based in Spain and Asturias (an autonomous community in northwest Spain) stated: “We know that the Minera Cobre SAS and by extension the Canadian MCC Mining Corporation, are heirs of the militarization and terror unleashed for the benefit of the Muriel Mining Corporation.”
There are other examples. This report from the Bonn/Berlin-based organization Germanwatch (citing Ivan Cepeda) notes that the No. 8 Battalion is stationed within the Toronto-based Gran Colombia Gold installation in Colombia.
Yesterday, Briarpatch Magazine published an article by Molly Murphy and Research for the Front Lines titled: The C-IRG: the resource extraction industry’s best ally. The authors are seeking to shed greater light on the C-IRG.
This past October, in a similar attempt, we posted: RCMP Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) deployed against Indigenous land defenders. We were present on Wet’suwet’en territory in November 2021 and tried to further document the role of the C-IRG in that raid in this article: Did RCMP stage Wet’suwet’en raid at Coastal GasLink camp?.
We are also trying to develop a better understanding of the relationship between Canadian corporations and the Energy, Mining and Transport Battalions in Colombia.