DeSmog and APTN report on intensification of RCMP harassment of Wet’suwet’en and Secwepemc land defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

Gidimt’en video of RCMP harassment posted on June 11.

DeSmog reports:

Canadian police and security forces have intensified their surveillance and harassment of Indigenous people in recent months in an effort to clear the way for the construction of two long-distance oil and gas pipelines in British Columbia, earning the condemnation of international human rights observers.

The Tiny House Warriors, a group of Secwepemc people, are opposing the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline, a long-distance oil pipeline that is under construction and would run from Alberta’s tar sands to the Pacific Coast, ending near Vancouver. And Wet’suwet’en land defenders are opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a fossil gas pipeline that would feed an LNG export terminal in northern British Columbia.

“The Governments of Canada and of the Province of British Columbia have escalated their use of force, surveillance, and criminalization of land defenders and peaceful protesters to intimidate, remove and forcibly evict Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en Nations from their traditional lands,” the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) wrote in an April 29 letter.

Wet’suwet’en

DeSmog continues:

In recent months, the surveillance and police presence have dramatically escalated yet again. According to Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en, the RCMP has conducted more than 225 “site inspections” since March 2022 at one of their village encampments. The Wet’suwet’en land defenders say they have been constantly surveilled, followed, and harassed. Some of the incursions happen at odd hours.

“Visits would range from one to five times within a 24 hour period. Sometimes in the middle of night,” Sleydo’ Molly Wickham, a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Checkpoint, one of the villages on Wet’suwet’en territory, told DeSmog.

“They’ve followed me to my home. There’s also private security sitting outside Gidimt’en Checkpoint, surveilling the comings and goings of myself, my children, my family…anybody who is coming or going to the village site,” she said.

The constant RCMP presence is “pure harassment and psychological intimidation,” Sleydo’ said. “They are creating the conditions where it’s unbearable to live on our territories.”

“When I first read the letter [from the UN], I nearly cried. Because it was validation of what we already know and what we already feel,” Sleydo’ said. “The fact that the government and industry are working so closely together to oppress us on our own territories and diminish our title and our rights, and violate basic human rights, has been an overwhelming experience. It was such a relief to hear this international body condemn those practices.”

In response to questions from DeSmog, the Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations Office in Geneva, to whom the CERD letter was addressed, referred questions to the Department of Canadian Heritage, who did not respond. The provincial government of British Columbia also did not respond.

The RCMP did not respond to questions from DeSmog.

The approach by the RCMP and the Canadian governments towards Indigenous people opposing oil and gas pipelines should be viewed through a “counterinsurgency” lens, Miles Howe, an assistant professor at Ontario-based Brock University, told DeSmog.

Secwepemc

APTN Nation to Nation (N2N) has also recently reported:

Kanahus Manuel, a prominent activist and spokesperson for the Tiny House Warriors, believes Canada is allowing the Mounties to deal with Aboriginal title issues through colonial force.

“They’re there to do the dirty work for the Canadian government, to take resources and to take land,” Manuel says. “It’s not right. It’s human rights violations.”

Manuel tells N2N it’s no coincidence British Columbia is the only province that has such a unique police squadron. Treaties were never signed in huge swaths of the province, meaning those areas are actually unsurrendered First Nations territory.

“It gives a real clear picture of the Canadian government and how they use their policing agencies to deal with the outstanding land question here in so-called British Columbia,” she says. “This has to stop.”

APTN’s investigation also revealed a broadening network of senior ex-Mounties, often with decades of experience, providing espionage and security services to resource extraction companies, and working closely with the C-IRG [the RCMP’s community-industry response group].

Manuel says they go together “hand in glove,” noting that private security personnel will often have more policing experience than the actual cops the C-IRG deploys.

The APTN article by Brett Forester can be read at ‘Unrestrained’ B.C. RCMP unit should be reined in or phased out, opponents say. The article by Nick Cunningham can be read at Canada Steps Up Surveillance of Indigenous Peoples To Push Fossil Fuel Pipelines Forward.

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