New Ottawa police chief oversaw the arrests of Wet’suwet’en land defenders opposing megaproject that lacks consent

Published by Brent Patterson on

CTV reports: “RCMP Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs was introduced as the new chief of the Ottawa Police Service Friday afternoon [October 21], three days before voters head to the polls to elect a new mayor and council.”

The article also notes: “Stubbs has been in charge of Core Criminal Operations for the B.C. RCMP since July 2017.”

Similarly, Le Droit also reports: “In recent years, Eric Stubbs has been involved in the management of protests on Wet’suwet’en ancestral territory, in opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.”

This includes overseeing the three militarized RCMP raids on Wet’suwet’en territory on January 8, 2019, February 6-10, 2020, and November 18-19, 2021, that resulted in the arrests of land defenders, legal observers and journalists.

After his appointment as Ottawa’s police chief, Stubbs commented: “There’s been a lot of resource base [protests], the Coastal Gaslink with the Wet’suwet’en, Old Growth Forest, the Trans Mountain pipeline, it’s been very challenging.”

He added: “[There’s a team] really dedicated to trying to resolve these things through talking and negotiating and we’ve been successful in a lot of those cases. But often we do end up having to arrest people and some people are upset.”

“Lethal overwatch” in 2019

The Guardian has reported: “Canadian police were prepared to shoot Indigenous land defenders [in January 2019 who were] blockading construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia, according to documents seen by the Guardian.”

That article adds: “Notes from a strategy session for a militarized raid on ancestral lands of the Wet’suwet’en nation show that commanders of Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), argued that ‘lethal overwatch is req’d’ – a term for deploying an officer who is prepared to use lethal force.”

February 2020 exclusion zone

On February 5, 2020, The Georgia Straight quoted Stubbs stating: “As enforcement of the injunction nears, we’ve assembled a team in the area. We encourage all of the protesters to abide by the injunction and leave the area.”

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association wrote to Stubbs: “The BCCLA is highly concerned about the developing situation in Wet’suwet’en territories. We are alarmed by the institution of an overbroad RCMP exclusion zone prohibiting Wet’suwet’en people, journalists, and the public from entering and monitoring police activity.”

Stubbs made his comment after the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had called on Canada to halt the construction of the pipeline and remove the RCMP from Wet’suwet’en territories.

The arrest of journalists in 2021

Mike De Souza and Matt Simmons have also reported in The Narwhal that on the day – November 19, 2021 – that photo-journalist Amber Bracken and filmmaker Michael Toledano were arrested by the RCMP during their raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, the gold commander of the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), John Brewer, justified the arrests of Bracken and Toledano in an email to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.

The C-IRG gold commander alleged that the journalists were activists and that his unit was about to produce the evidence.

The Narwhal article adds: “Less than three minutes later, according to time stamps on the emails reviewed by The Narwhal, Eric Stubbs, an RCMP assistant commissioner forwarded Brewer’s message to Wayne Rideout, a senior provincial government official.”

Stubbs later publicly stated that he was “willing to work with the media” but this email from Stubbs suggests reason for concern.

The promised evidence about the journalists was never produced.

Ongoing harassment in 2022

Gidimt’en Checkpoint has noted: “Since February 2022, RCMP and C-IRG have entered our village sites and home sites multiples times a day – hundreds of times in total. RCMP and C-IRG have continuously harassed and intimidated our people and our guests and disrupted our cultural practices and ceremonies.”

Wet’suwet’en land defender Molly Wickham (Sleydo’) says: “On multiple occasions, I have witnessed the RCMP on the ground take direction from Coastal GasLink workers. Their relationship is so close and intertwined that it’s hard to distinguish roles.”

In June of this year, several Wet’suwet’en land defenders launched a civil lawsuit that holds the RCMP and others accountable for invading their privacy, intimidation, intentional infliction of mental distress, malicious and willful misconduct, and more.

Local reaction

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says: “Now is the time, I think, for politicians and the public to show their support as this police officer, who has dedicated his life to police services, starts his new job which is very challenging at this time, no question about this.”

Watson adds: “I know one of his priorities will be to reach out to the aboriginal community, the Algonquin Anishanabe Nation, and start those relations on a positive footing.”

Sam Hersh of Horizon Ottawa has responded: “If this is the Board’s attempt at ‘regaining our trust’ they have failed. We are unsure how a Police Chief who played a big role in raids of Indigenous territory is supposed to make BIPOC and other equity-seeking communities in Ottawa feel safe – quite the opposite.”

Stubbs will be sworn in on November 17.

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