What machine guns are deployed by the RCMP against Indigenous land defenders?

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Wet’suwet’en land defender Molly Wickham: “Get that gun off me! Get your gun off me! Lower your gun!” Video still from Yintah Film.

What weapons were the RCMP equipped with during their militarized raids of Wet’suwet’en territory? What are the capabilities of those weapons? What are the use of force protocols for the RCMP when arresting Indigenous land defenders? Are there concerns about the level of force being deployed against land defenders in this country?

Was this deployment of weaponry proportionate to any threat and in keeping with the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials?

Wet’suwet’en land defender Molly Wickham was arrested at gunpoint by the RCMP on November 19, 2021.

She recently told journalist Brandi Morin: “I did not take my eyes off of that gun and that man who was holding that gun and pointing it at me. I was thinking, what’s going to happen if the dog comes in, or if somebody makes the wrong move.”

In December 2019, The Guardian also reported: “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.”

That article further notes: “One document noted that the Wet’suwet’en possessed ‘firearms for hunting/sustenance’ but police intelligence indicated that there was ‘no single threat indicating that [land defenders] will use firearms’.”

These photos show the weapons that have been deployed by the RCMP against Wet’suwet’en land defenders opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline being built on their territory without free, prior and informed consent.

Photo by Dan Loan.

Photo by Gidimt’en Checkpoint.

Photo by Michael Toledano.

Photo by Gidimt’en Checkpoint.

Photo by Gidimt’en Checkpoint.

We are in the process of trying to identify these weapons. While we are not certain, they appear to be Colt C8 carbines. Various news articles – including from CBC Daybreak North, CBC News, Vancouver Is Awesome, and Burnaby Now suggest a match. 

According to a Government of Canada website, the specifications for the C8A3 Carbine Automatic Rifle include: “Sustained rate of fire: 15 rounds per minute; Maximum rate of fire (semi-automatic): 65 rounds per minute.”

Photo: Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

Photo: Flashbang magazine.

An enhanced grenade launching module too?

From the following photo compared with the illustrative photo, it’s also possible – given the appearance of the barrel – that the RCMP officer pointing his gun through the smashed cabin door may have been equipped with an AG-C grenade launcher.

Photo by Amber Bracken.

The AG-C/EGLM (enhanced grenade launching module), manufactured by the German gun company Heckler and Koch, is “a single shot 40 mm grenade launcher that attaches to any AR-15 type rifle” (which includes the C8 carbine) and “can fire high-explosive, smoke, illuminating, buckshot direct fire, CS gas, and training grenades.”

According to the German company Rheinmetall, their 40 mm ammunition includes: “practice cartridges, impulse/less-than-lethal, sound & flash, and irritant cartridges for peacekeeping and peace enforcement, as well as high explosive, illumination and smoke/obscurant ammunition for high intensity warfare.”

Further research is required to confirm if this weapon was also deployed.

Use of force protocols

Amnesty International commented at the Ipperwash Inquiry on the use of force by police following the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) killing of Dudley George, an unarmed Indigenous land defender in September 1995.

They stated: “The United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, as well as the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials state that force is to be used only in extreme circumstances where other measures are insufficient and only in proportion to the threat at hand. These standards also make clear that the use of firearms and the intentional use of lethal force shall only be permitted when it is strictly unavoidable in order to protect human life. Any order, whether direct or indirect, to use disproportionate force is inherently unlawful and officers must not obey such an order regardless of whether it came from a superior or other state official.”

We know the RCMP is not compliant with the direction to leave Wet’suwet’en territory made under the Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

That could also be asked of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN’s Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

We are also attentive to the CANSEC weapons show that will take place May 31-June 1 at the EY Centre in Ottawa. Colt Canada Corporation, the manufacturer of C8 carbine rifles, will be one of the exhibitors.

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