RCMP declines to comment on Minister’s direction on tear gas and rubber bullets; C-IRG violence remains unaddressed

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: The RCMP says “OC spray [pepper spray] was deployed when the crowd failed to comply with police directions” at the Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek) blockade in August 2021. Video here. Keith Cherry has filed a seven-page complaint about C-IRG actions at Fairy Creek with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.

The Canadian Press reports: “The federal government says it wants the RCMP to ban the use of two crowd-control tools that forces across the country say they have in their arsenals: sponge rounds and CS gas.”

“The force does not use rubber bullets [but uses the 40 mm extended-range impact weapons that fire sponge-tipped rounds] or the more-dangerous chemical compounds referred to as tear gas [but uses CS gas that the RCMP considers milder].”

“Public disclosures show that the RCMP used CS gas 102 times in 2021, and it used extended-range impact weapons 86 times.”

Notably, the article adds: “Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s office confirmed that it wants the measures outlawed, even as the RCMP declines to say whether or not it will comply with that instruction.”

Chemical & Engineering News has reported: “Riot-control agents like tear gas and pepper spray [OC spray] are banned from use in warfare under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Yet they may still be used for law enforcement and riot control, explains chemical weapons specialist Marc-Michael Blum, founder of Blum Scientific Services, which focuses on analytical testing and training in the areas of chemical and biological defense.”

In 2020, NDP MP Matthew Green called “upon the House of Commons to ban the use of tear gas in all its forms in Canada, destroy the stocks of tear gas currently owned by the police and armed forces in Canada, investigate the use of tear gas by the police [against a George Floyd solidarity protest] in Montreal on May 31, and encourage the police to prioritize de-escalation tactics over dispersal and arrest tactics in crowd control actions.”

Neck restraints

In a May 2022 letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Mendicino called for “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.”

The Canadian Press article continues: “The RCMP made headlines recently when it confirmed that it still allows officers to use the controversial neck hold despite those instructions and the fact that other police forces have stopped using it.”

The RCMP reported it used the “carotid control technique” 14 times in 2021.

Video: In December 2021, CBC reported 24 year old Gitxsan land defender Denzel Sutherland-Wilson shouted “I can’t breathe!” as RCMP officers tackled him at an encampment in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en struggle against the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Weapons used against Indigenous land defenders

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.”

We are in the process of trying to identify that. gun While we are not certain, it appears to be a Colt C8 carbine.

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.”

It’s also possible that the RCMP officer pointing his gun through the smashed cabin door may have been equipped with an AG-C grenade launcher.

More at: What weapons are deployed by the RCMP against Indigenous land defenders? (January 20, 2023)

Calls to dismantle the C-IRG

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.

This past week, Leadnow launched a new campaign and petition that calls for an End C-IRG violence against land defenders.

Their petition highlights: “We need to make it known that it is unacceptable for the government to provide unlimited resources to a squad that violates Indigenous rights in order to make way for environmental destruction.”

Leadnow adds: “The RCMP is under the direction of federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, and BC Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. We are calling on them to dismantle the Community-Industry Response Group and conduct a public inquiry into its actions.”

In less than a week, 1,877 people have taken action in support of this petition.

Webinar, February 21

This webinar will discuss the role of the C-IRG in the repression of Indigenous land defence struggles in Canada, amplify demands from land defenders that the C-IRG be dismantled, and support the call for a public inquiry into its actions.

To register for this webinar, please click here.

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