RCMP use helicopters, airplanes and drones to surveil and arrest Wet’suwet’en land defenders

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: A security check-point at Mile Marker 27, near Houston, B.C., on Jan. 8, 2019. Photo by Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail. This helicopter appears similar in appearance to a Eurocopter EC-120 Colibri.

The RCMP community-industry response group (C-IRG) has used helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and drones to surveil and arrest Indigenous land defenders.

As of February 2023, the RCMP have 35 aircraft, 9 helicopters and 26 fixed-wing aircraft. The helicopters were bought from Aerospatiale, Airbus and Eurocopter, while the fixed-wing aircraft were bought from Cessna, de Havilland, Pilatus and Quest.

De Havilland and Airbus (a merger of Aerospatiale and Eurocopter) are among the companies that will be at the CANSEC arms show this coming May 31-June 1.

The RCMP has also flown a FLIR SkyRanger R60 unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) over Wet’suwet’en territory just prior to its February 2020 raid.

Teledyne FLIR will also be at CANSEC this year.

2019 raid

The Guardian has reported: “Documents show that ahead of the [January 7, 2019] raid, the RCMP deployed an array of surveillance, including heavily armed police patrols, a jet boat, helicopter, drone technology, heat-sensing cameras and close monitoring of key land defenders’ movements and social media postings.”

It adds: “Since the January raid, … drones and helicopters often circle overhead.”

Photo: “A 2019 file photo of an RCMP helicopter taking off near Wet’suwet’en.” Photo by the Canadian Press.

2020 raid

In January 2020, Vice reported: “Less than a week after the RCMP flatly denied spying on Wet’suwet’en First Nation sites with drones and flyovers, the police force now admits it’s deploying ‘air assets’ to monitor Indigenous land defenders who are blocking a pipeline near Smithers, B.C.”

The article adds: “[RCMP Corporal Madonna] Saunderson confirmed that an RCMP aircraft ‘did conduct patrol over the area’ on January 20, ‘as part of our commitment to monitor the situation.’ The admission came one day after a photo of what appeared to be an RCMP plane above a Wet’suwet’en camp made the rounds on social media.”

Social media post by photo-journalist Michael Toledano. This aircraft appears in similar in design to the Pilatus PC-12 aircraft used by the RCMP.

Tweet by Toledano. This appears to be an RCMP Air Services Eurocopter/Airbus AS350 B3 helicopter.

And in June 2020, Global News reported: “An RCMP helicopter collided with a drone during the Wet’suwet’en protests in northern B.C. …Global News has learned the incident took place Feb. 6 at 2 p.m., while RCMP were conducting patrols near Houston, B.C. during the protests against the Coastal GasLink pipeline.”

That Global News article further notes: “Feb. 6 was the first day of arrests during the pipeline protests and six people were arrested that day. That same day RCMP also changed the access control checkpoint to a full exclusion zone… In total, 22 people in total were arrested between Feb. 6 and 10.”

Global News has also reported: “The aircraft collided with a FLIR SkyRanger R60 unmanned aerial vehicle during a low-level flight, according to a report from the Transportation Safety Board. …Asked about how the collision occurred, given that both aircraft were piloted by RCMP personnel, the force only said it had taken ‘immediate steps to prevent a similar incident happening again.’”

Photo: “This is a SkyRanger R60 drone that is used by the RCMP. This photo was taken in the same area on Feb. 8, 2020.” Photo by Clayton Little / Global News

2022 surveillance and harassment

Tweet: Gidimt’en Checkpoint tweet.

C-IRG helicopters at Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek) blockades

In May 2021, Narcity reported: “The RCMP confirmed to Narcity that four people were arrested on May 26 with the help of helicopters after staging tree sit-ins to stop old-growth logging in the forest, which sits on the unceded territories of the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations on Vancouver Island.”

On May 27, 2021, photographer Mike Graeme also posted on Instagram: “Helicopters were heard overhead all day today, as RCMP resorted to removing tree-sitters by air.”

Photo by Mike Graeme. This appears to be an Airbus H145 helicopter.

Photo: The H145 is equipped to deploy the RCMP’s Emergency Response Team.

Abolish C-IRG coalition

The Abolish C-IRG coalition is calling for the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) to be immediately disbanded. This unit, formed in 2017, is used to repress Indigenous land defence struggles on unceded territories in the province of British Columbia.

Photo: The RCMP C-IRG raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, January 2019.

This past March, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission began a “systemic investigation” of the C-IRG. This investigation will include “whether relevant policies, procedures, guidelines and training … are consistent with applicable jurisprudence/case law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Photo: Abolish C-IRG.

Shut Down CANSEC, May 31

PBI-Canada will be present at the CANSEC arms show in Ottawa this coming Wednesday May 31 to help amplify concerns that the companies present at it help equip the C-IRG repression of land defenders.

Colt Canada, the Kitchener, Ontario-based company that sells C8 carbine rifles to the RCMP, will be an exhibitor at CANSEC this year. TheGunBlog.ca has also reported: “RCMP bought $7.9 million of munitions and ammunition, almost all of which was supplied by the Canadian subsidiary of General Dynamics Corp. of the U.S.”

Colt Canada and General Dynamics will also be exhibitors at CANSEC this year.

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.

For more on the upcoming mobilization against CANSEC on May 31, please see this World Beyond War webpage.

Categories: News Updates


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