RCMP says it will continue to use “carotid control” after Minister calls for end to “neck restraints”

Published by Brent Patterson on

Video: CBC has reported 24 year old Gitxsan land defender Denzel Sutherland-Wilson shouted “I can’t breathe!” as RCMP officers tackled him on November 21, 2021, at an encampment in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en struggle against the Coastal GasLink pipeline. It’s not clear what “technique” is being used against this young man.

In the September 2021 federal election in Canada, the Liberals put in their election platform the promise to: “Prohibit RCMP against using neck restraints and prohibit the use of tear gas or rubber bullets for crowd control.”

In a May 2022 mandate letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, the Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino, wrote: “The Prime Minister has asked me to deliver on the following specific mandate commitments [including] prohibiting the use of neck restraints in any circumstance and the use of tear gas or rubber bullets for crowd control alongside developing national standards for the use-of-force.”

Now, the CBC reports: “A spokesperson for the RCMP [Robin Percival] told CBC News Wednesday that the national police force has ‘not banned or placed a moratorium on the use of the carotid control technique.’”

Carotid arteries are the main blood vessels that carry blood and oxygen to the brain.

The RCMP has previously stated: “The knee to the neck technique is not carotid control and should not be confused with carotid control. Carotid control does not include the use of the legs for restraint. The RCMP does not teach or endorse any technique where RCMP officers place a knee on the head or neck.”

Video: Gitxsan land defender Denzel Sutherland-Wilson: “I can’t breathe!” 

The CBC article does not report on the RCMP’s current position on the use of tear gas or rubber bullets for crowd control.

Meanwhile, the RCMP Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), the unit established to protect resource extraction projects in British Columbia, including the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory, continues unaddressed by the federal government amid growing calls for it to be abolished.

The British Columbia Federation of Labour (BCFL), on November 24, 2022, voted in favour of this resolution calling for the C-IRG to be disbanded.

Ottawa-based CBC journalist Brett Forester recently reported: “An RCMP squad charged with policing resistance to resource extraction in British Columbia spent nearly $50 million enforcing injunctions obtained by the petroleum and forestry sectors in its first five years, an internal accounting shows.” That article highlights that $27.6 million was spent on policing for the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Peace Brigades International, Global Witness, Front Line Defenders, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have expressed concern about the criminalization of Wet’suwet’en land defenders and RCMP use of violence.

The C-IRG, established in 2017, has launched three militarized raids against Wet’suwet’en land defenders (in 2019, 2020 and 2021).

Brandi Morin has written: “[On November 19, 2021], the RCMP dropped officers onto the territory via helicopter, some were bussed in, and a few were accompanied by trained attack dogs to tear her [Molly Wickham] away from her homelands.”

Morin adds: “The officers were heavily armed, some with AK47 rifles and sniper guns. The land defenders inside had no weapons, except for the knowledge of their rights as sovereign Indigenous Peoples.”

Video: RCMP point assault rifle at Wickham as police dogs bark.

Wickham tells 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. The RCMP, this is the third violent raid that they’ve had on our territories, but they also have become increasingly bold and increasingly violent.”

We continue to express our concern about RCMP violence against Indigenous land defenders resisting megaprojects that lack free, prior and informed consent.

Further reading: RCMP and Coastal GasLink deny conspiring to harass and intimidate Wet’suwet’en land defenders opposed to fracked gas pipeline (January 12, 2023).

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