PBI-Canada Board member volunteers as Legal Observer on Wet’suwet’en Territory
“…We are conducting patrols to ensure criminal code offences are not being committed and that individuals with court-ordered conditions are not breaching those conditions”.
So begins each of the RCMP’s visits to a pipeline resistance camp on Gidimt’en territory. Today, the script has already been read three times, with 6-8 officers pulling up in CIRG (Community-Industry Response Group) SUVs and unmarked trucks on each occasion. After reading the script, police walk through camp video-recording and staging their search for violations of conditions.
On other days, supporters or legal observers, including myself, are pulled over and made to test our lights, signals and more in search of our own violations of other colonial laws. Subsequently, officers make a point of calling me by my legal name when I ask for badge numbers; the point is clear: we’re being surveilled.
What’s much worse is the day when camp supporters are sent scrambling when they get a radio call from an Indigenous youth left on the side of the logging road out of cell service after her car is impounded by police. It is distressing for everyone. Last month, a Wet’suwet’en woman was found murdered after teams of people drove up and down the Highway of Tears in search of her. While the culprit is unknown, the context is clear: where the settler extractivist order meets Indigenous people, colonialism continues to harm.
As the RCMP read out the laws that justify their colonial presence, supporters of the camp volley back that we are on Chief Woos’ territory and that the RCMP is not welcome. Sometimes supporters mention Delgamuukw, the 1997 Supreme Court decision that recognized Aboriginal Rights and Title. And they could go on: section 35 of the Constitution; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and the BC NDP enshrining it into law, all make one wonder why the united opposition of Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs is ignored amongst colonial politicians.
Whatever the script, it’s another reminder that the structural violence of settler colonialism continues to unfold. And with hundreds of sections of Coastal GasLink’s pipeline staged and waiting to bisect the territory, it’s also clear that capital continues to join the state as a primary protagonist of colonialism’s intensification.
That night, around the fire, talk turns to bears coming out of hibernation, and the snow melting, as the moon lights up the camp. Noticing deeper rhythms feels comforting after the stress of the day. As I head to bed I hear or imagine the sound of the Wedzin Kwa, alive and surging, as it has – and as the Wet’suwet’en continue to do – since time immemorial.
by Seb Bonet, Peace Brigades International-Canada
Video still by Brandi Morin.
The application form to be a legal observer on Wet’suwet’en territory can be found here.