Wet’suwet’en land defender Sleydo’ expresses concern opponents of Coastal GasLink pipeline may go to jail after upcoming trial

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Lee Wilson of APTN National News reports: “A well-known Wet’suwet’en land defender expressed concern that she and some supporters who oppose the Coastal Gaslink pipeline may go to jail after an upcoming trial.”

His article adds: “According to Sledyo’, five land defenders took a plea agreement last year. In 2023, thirteen Wet’suwe’ten and supporters are facing contempt charges for violating [a December 2019 court] injunction [that protects Coastal GasLink access to the Morice Forest Service Road].”

Sleydo’ says: “The human rights abuses, the Indigenous rights experiences we experience on the ground and that we have been experiencing for years, this is the first time that we are actually going to trial facing criminal charges for defending our lands and upholding laws.”

She adds: “Just as an example[of the ongoing police harassment against the Wet’suwet’en], the other day I was driving home, and I was followed by private security and the RCMP, both who I repeatedly asked to drive past me so I can pull over so they can go by me but they followed me, they continue to do that everywhere on the territory.”

APTN does not report on the date of the upcoming trial.

International statements

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on Canada multiple times to stop construction on the pipeline and remove the RCMP and private security from Wet’suwet’en territory until consent for the pipeline is secured.

On September 28, 2022, Peace Brigades International brought this to the attention of the Human Rights Council session at the UN in Geneva Switzerland.

We stated: “The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [CERD] 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.”

In September 2022, Global Witness also released its Decade of Defiance report in which it recommends (on page 22): “The Canadian government should immediately cease the forcible eviction of Wet’suwet’en people; guarantee that no force will be used against Wet’suwet’en peoples; withdraw security and police forces from Wet’suwet’en territory; and prohibit the use of lethal weapons by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police against Indigenous peoples.”

In October 2022, Front Line Defenders invited Sleydo’ to speak at their Dublin Platform gathering in Ireland.

In January, Amnesty International stated: “The Canadian government and CGL must immediately withdraw security and policing forces from Wet’suwet’en territory. Their presence severely limits the ability of Wet’suwet’en people to exercise their rights over their traditional territories. All allegations of harassment, intimidation, threats and forced evictions of Indigenous and other land defenders on traditional and unceded Wet’suwet’en territory must be investigated immediately.”

And this week, in their World Report 2023 (page 130), Human Rights Watch highlights: “In April, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concerns about the “escalated use of force, surveillance, and criminalization against land defenders and peaceful protesters.” The committee urged Canada to stop construction on two natural gas and oil projects until the government obtains consent from affected Indigenous communities.”

Policing a fossil fuel subsidy

In April 2021, the Environmental Defence PAYING POLLUTERS report stated: “A particularly egregious form of fossil fuel subsidy are investments made into policing Indigenous land defenders opposing fossil fuel infrastructure.”

At that time, it noted: “Over $13 million was spent last year on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to ‘protect’ the Coastal GasLink pipeline – which took the form of harassing Wet’suwet’en Nation community members who oppose the pipeline.”

Now, Ottawa-based CBC journalist Brett Forester recently reports that the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), which has been referred to as their resource extraction protection unit, has spent at least $27.6 million.

Decolonial Solidarity challenges RBC financing

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.”

Decolonial Solidarity is supporting the Wet’suwet’en struggle by calling on the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to divest from Coastal GasLink (CGL).

We continue to follow this situation.

On January 7, 2023, the fourth anniversary of the first RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, in which 14 land defenders, including Sleydo’, were arrested, activists stood in solidarity with them on Parliament Hill.

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