Amnesty International notes continuous surveillance and criminalization of Wet’suwe’ten land defenders in letter to OAS General Assembly

Published by Brent Patterson on

Amnesty International has published an Open Letter to the Heads of State of American States on the Occasion of the 53rd Regular Session of the General Assembly of the OAS.

The 53rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) is taking place June 21 to 23 in Washington, DC.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly participated in the OAS meetings on June 21 to 22. Hugh Adsett is the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the OAS.

Amnesty International notes:

In several countries – such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela – states have proceeded with or have granted concessions to national and multinational companies to carry out extractive, agricultural and infrastructure projects without the free, prior and informed consent of the affected Indigenous peoples. The criminal law has also been misused against Indigenous peoples. In Canada, the five Wet’suwet’en Clans that have opposed the construction of a pipeline on their ancestral territory have been subjected to continuous surveillance and criminalization through court orders, and have been harassed, forcibly expelled and imprisoned.

Amnesty International urges the authorities of states in the region to respect the right of Indigenous peoples to self[1]determination and to obtain their free, prior and informed consent for projects in their territories. The killings of Indigenous people should be investigated immediately, impartially and effectively and the misuse of criminal law against them should be stopped and reparation ensured.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International Canada also highlighted:

Wet’suwet’en land defenders, Hereditary Chiefs and matriarchs are frequently harassed, intimidated, forcibly removed and criminalized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and CGL’s private security guards for peacefully defending their unceded, ancestral and traditional lands.

In three large-scale police actions in the territory in January 2019, February 2020 and November 2021, a total of 74 Wet’suwet’en and other land defenders, legal observers and members of the media were arrested and detained. During these raids, the RCMP were equipped with military assault weapons, helicopters and dog units, and operated alongside private security guards to burn down buildings and desecrate Indigenous ceremonial spaces.

This criminalization and harassment is being carried out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG).

Peace Brigades International-Canada is part of the Abolish C-IRG coalition that is calling for the abolition of this controversial police unit that has also repressed land defenders opposed to the Government of Canada-owned Trans Mountain tar sands oil pipeline on Secwepemc territory and logging on Pacheedaht territory in British Columbia.

The full letter from Amnesty International can also be read in Spanish at Carta abierta a los jefes y las jefas de Estado de Estados Americanos en ocasión de la LIII sesión ordinaria de Asamblea General de la OEA (June 21, 2023).

Further reading: The RCMP C-IRG is inconsistent with Canada’s stated priorities in its bid for a seat at the UN Human Rights Council (June 18, 2023)

Video: Sleydo’ and Gitxsan land defender Shaylynn Sampson arrested at gunpoint by RCMP C-IRG officers on Wet’suwet’en territory on November 19, 2021.

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