RCMP uses excessive force against three land defenders on Wet’suwet’en territory

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On August 16, Gidimt’en Checkpoint tweeted:

“RCMP Pepper Spray Three Land Defenders in a Show of Excessive Force. On Friday August 12 around 4pm, land defenders were followed and harassed by police while enroute to their private residence on Gidimt’en yintah.”

Their media release adds:

“The police proceeded to use excessive force by arresting 2 land defenders and pepper spraying each arrestee and one other. One of the victims of this violent assault had already been placed in hand cuffs behind their back before being pepper sprayed. This police escalation happened outside the residence of one of the victims who is a young Indigenous Land Defender, and far from any Coastal GasLink worksite. This is a blatant example of the targeted harassment that the RCMP and the CIRG has inflicted on the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters.”

It further notes:

“On July 13, 2022, the Gidimt’en Checkpoint launched a civil suit against the RCMP, CIRG, the Minister of Justice for BC, Coastal Gaslink Pipeline and private security contractor Forsythe for hundreds of instances of trespass, harassment, and intimidation tactics. The Department of Justice is asking for more time to respond, but while they stall, the RCMP are now escalating their violence against unarmed land defenders.”

Wet’suwet’en land defender Molly Wickham says: “This police attack targeting Indigenous people who live on the Wet’suwet’en yintah comes as people are preparing for a big cultural gathering with elders and children on the territory in August, and is clearly meant to intimidate and prevent Indigenous people from conducting our ceremonies on the land. We remain part of the Wedzin Kwa, the sacred river, that we are protecting from colonial invaders. This won’t deter us from doing what is right, upholding our own laws that have been in place for thousands of years, protecting our land and standing up for future generations.”

UN Committee calls for RCMP to leave the yintah

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has repeatedly urged Canada to stop construction on the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.

This fracked gas pipeline is being built on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory without free, prior and informed consent.

The UN committee’s third letter – dated April 29, 2022 – called on Canada to provide a response to several concerns by July 15, 2022, including measures to: “Prevent and duly investigate the allegations of surveillance measures, practices of arbitrary detention, instances of excessive use of force against protesters, in particular those belonging to the Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en peoples, by the RCMP, CIRG, and private security firms.”

It’s not clear if Canada met that deadline.

Ongoing criminalization of land defenders

The Narwhal has also reported: “On July 7, the province’s legal team told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church it would prosecute Sleydo’ Molly Wickham, Shaylynn Sampson (Gitxsan Lax Gibuu Wilp Spookxw), Teka’tsihasere Corey ‘Jayohcee’ Jocko and Hannah Hall. The decision brings the total to 19 individuals arrested during the raid that B.C. Prosecution Service will pursue criminal charges against in the coming months.”

Wedzin Kwa river at risk

Earlier this year, the Terrace Standard reported: “The active tunneling work [under Wedzin Kwa] is expected to take two and half to three months.”

On August 8, Wickham posted: “I don’t know if people understand the severity of the time we are in right now.”

“The Wedzin Kwa is about to be destroyed. Our sacred life giver where our salmon spawn, the cleanest drinking water in the whole yintah, the place out ancestors walked and drank from, where all the animals and beings drink and use to survive.”

She adds: “It is about to be destroyed and we need you to come. Aug 20th for a week of Ceremony. Organize solidarity actions if you can’t make it. Nothing is more important than this, right now. This is our family, our future, our livelihood. It is life. Be as relentless as the systems in place meant to destroy us all.”

PBI-Canada visited the yintah in November 2021 and continues to follow this land defence struggle.

For more, please see the Gidimt’en Checkpoint Twitter feed.

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