PBI-Canada denounces the imprisonment of Tsleil-Waututh land defender Will George for his opposition to TMX pipeline

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Will George

Peace Brigades International-Canada is drawing the attention of the international community to the imprisonment of Tsleil-Waututh land defender Will George.

The Times Colonist newspaper reports: “Cries of ‘Shame on Canada’ and accusations of racism echoed through Vancouver’s Law Courts [on Tuesday] May 10 as an Indigenous protester convicted of breaching an injunction against blocking work at a Burnaby pipeline facility was sentenced to 28 days in jail.”

This press release from Protect the Planet notes: “George was targeted and charged by the Crown in January 2021 with criminal contempt despite never being arrested, and during a period when pipeline work had been suspended.”

It adds: “George—who was tried last fall—is the first Tsleil-Waututh member to be convicted for resisting the TMX pipeline while on his own ancestral, unceded land. Despite George being present with several others on the day he was accused of breaching the TMX injunction, the Crown only brought charges against George.”

Land defender Rita Wong comments: “This is yet another example of the Crown continuing its long history of systemic racism and colonial violence, as it tries to separate Indigenous people from their land and criminalize them for defending it from harmful resource extraction. Criminalizing indigenous land defenders is racist and unjust.”

The sentencing of the Tsleil-Waututh land defender comes just days after the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had called on Canada – for a third time – to halt construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline.

This most recent letter (dated April 29, 2022) from Verene Shepherd, the Chair of the Committee, to Leslie E. Norton, the Ambassador of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva, called on Canada to: “Cease the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the Coastal Gas Link pipeline, until free, prior and informed consent is obtained from, respectively, the Secwepemc people and the Wet’suwet’en people, following the full and adequate discharge of the duty to consult.”

The Trans Mountain pipeline crosses the territory of the Secwepemc peoples before it reaches the territory of the Tsleil-Waututh on the Salish Sea.

In March 2021, land defender Stacy Gallagher was also sentenced to prison for conducting ceremony in November-December 2019 near the Trans Mountain pipeline route. Coast Protectors highlighted that Gallagher had engaged in “peaceful prayer, smudging, singing and dancing for Mother Earth in ceremony at the TMX Burnaby tank farm.”

Numerous Secwepemc land defenders have also been criminalized and arrested.

If completed, the Government of Canada-owned 1,150 kilometre-long Trans Mountain pipeline would move 890,000 barrels per day of tar sands crude oil across Tsleil-Waututh and Secwepemc territories without their consent.

The UN Committee has called on Canada to provide a response to its concerns by July 15, 2022.

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