Application by land defenders citing RCMP/C-IRG “disproportionate and excessive use of force” to be heard in court on March 8
The RCMP Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) raid on Wet’suwet’en territory on November 19, 2021, included Emergency Response Team officers.
Twelve land defenders are alleging an “abuse of process” and highlighting the RCMP’s “disproportionate and excessive use of force” during a militarized police raid on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia on November 18-19, 2021.
CBC reports: “Several people arrested when RCMP raided a blockade on Wet’suwet’en territory in November 2021 are asking to have their charges stayed, alleging the police abused their power and used excessive force, according to court documents.”
The CBC report adds: “Twelve people filed proceedings Feb. 6 in B.C. Supreme Court to have charges stayed. …The stay applications will go before the court on March 8 in Smithers, B.C. to see if they will move forward, said Mahon.”
The applicants include land defenders Sleydo’ Molly Wickham and Shaylynn Sampson.
Video: Sleydo’ and Shaylynn Sampson arrested at gunpoint by the RCMP/C-IRG officers on Wet’suwet’en territory on November 19, 2021.
Their lawyer Frances Mahon says: “The police conduct here was so egregious that the prosecution should come to an end.
Photo: Frances Mahon.
The Gidimt’en media release on the application highlights that the tactics used by the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), a controversial unit formed in 2017 to police resource extraction conflicts in British Columbia, displayed “a systemic disregard for Indigenous rights and sovereignty and the Charter more generally.”
Sleydo’ says: “Society is rightly concerned with how a special unit of RCMP (C-IRG) acts with impunity, using racist language and violence against unarmed indigenous women. Now it’s in the courts hands to decide if this is still acceptable in 2023.”
If the charges are not stayed following the March 8 hearing, it is expected that a trial will take place in the fall (September-October) of this year.
On November 23, 2021, after four days in custody following the RCMP/C-IRG raid on her territory, stated: “C-IRG and the RCMP need to be abolished.”
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has also repeatedly called on Canada to remove the RCMP from Wet’suwet’en and Secwepemc territories.
The Committee’s most recent letter, dated April 29, 2022, to Leslie Norton, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva, requested Canada “to provide information on the measures taken to … prevent and duly investigate the allegations of surveillance measures, practices of arbitrary detention, instances of excessive use of force against protesters, in particular those belonging to the Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en peoples, by the RCMP, CIRG, and private security firms.”
On November 24, 2022, the British Columbia Federation of Labour unanimously passed a resolution calling for the C-IRG to be disbanded.
On February 21 of this year, we organized a webinar titled “Dismantle the C-IRG, end violence against land defenders” featuring Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’moks, international human rights lawyer Shivangi Misra, activist-academic Keith Cherry and PBI-Canada Board member Seb Bonet. To watch the video of that webinar, please click here.
Now, we are part of an informal network of activists, academics, lawyers and organizations who are also calling for the abolition of C-IRG.
For an in-depth read, please also see The C-IRG: the resource extraction industry’s best ally by Molly Murphy and Research for the Front Lines (January 5, 2022).