PBI-Canada observes Decolonial Solidarity painting salmon at RBC in support of Wet’suwet’en water protectors

Published by Brent Patterson on

On October 21, PBI-Canada observed Decolonial Solidarity painting salmon on the sidewalk in front of a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) branch in Ottawa.

Decolonial Solidarity took this action in support of Wet’suwet’en water protectors opposed to the RBC-financed Coastal GasLink pipeline now being built without free, prior and informed consent on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia.

Police threaten mischief charge

RBC called Ottawa Police who responded with seven officers. The police advised Decolonial Solidarity that they could be charged with mischief.

Lawyer Michael Spratt has previously written: “It is time to offer the Ottawa police some simple and free legal advice: it is not a criminal offence to chalk a sidewalk. It can be a criminal offence to make permanent markings on public property. But chalk is not permanent. It can also be a crime to interfere with lawful enjoyment of public spaces. Chalk does not do that.”

Commenting on chalking on sidewalks, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has tweeted: “If you don’t like it, just wait for a rainy day.”

Furthermore, Spratt has also argued that the right to freedom of expression (with chalking) is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Risk to Wedzin Kwa

While Decolonial Solidarity used “washable, non-toxic and gluten free” and “water-based” children’s paint that will wash away with time, the stakes are permanent for the Wedzin Kwa river on Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Wet’suwet’en have highlighted: “Wedzin Kwa is a spawning ground for salmon and a critical source of pristine drinking water on the territory.” Gidimt’en water protector Molly Wickham adds: “Our way of life is at risk. Wedzin Kwa is the river that feeds all of Wet’suwet’en territory and gives life to our nation.”

The day prior to this Decolonial Solidarity action, The Narwhal reported: “Coastal GasLink is drilling under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) as spawning salmon lay their eggs throughout the river system.”

The article highlights: “The work is being done during a period outside of the ‘least-risk window’ for in-stream construction, according to reports filed with the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. Put another way, Coastal GasLink is putting its pipeline under the river at the riskiest time for salmon.”

RBC financing and carbon pollution

Significantly, Stand.earth has documented: “RBC is among top commercial banks providing the CGL project with working capital, including CAD $275 million in project finance, a co-financed $6.5 billion loan, a $40 million corporate loan, and $200 million in co-financed working capital – while acting as financial advisor for the pipeline.”

And according to the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International report: Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon (page 16), the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline could produce 125 million metric tons of CO2 pollution annually.

Construction on the pipeline is scheduled to be completed in 2023 and would be in service for a minimum of 25 years (to 2048). Given gas pipelines can have a lifespan of 50 years, Coastal GasLink could be operational through to 2073. 

Canada ignores UN calls to halt pipeline construction

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has repeatedly called on Canada to stop the construction of the pipeline until it has gained the consent of the Wet’suwet’en peoples for the building of the pipeline.

This was conveyed in this resolution dated December 13, 2019, and in follow-up letters sent to Leslie E. Norton, Canada’s Ambassador at the United Nations in Geneva, on November 24, 2020, and April 29, 2022.

On September 28, Kim-Mai Vu of Peace Brigades International presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during the Interactive Dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

She stated: “The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on Canada to stop construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory. Canada ratified this International Convention in 1970 and said in 2016 that it supported the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, however, the construction of this gas pipeline without consent continues as does the criminalization of land defenders.”

For more, please see: Wet’suwet’en land defender Molly Wickham: “It’s time to plan, prepare and protect what is left”.


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