Wet’suwet’en leaders highlight RCMP C-IRG violence in presentation to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Published by Brent Patterson on

On July 10, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks and Sleydo’, Wing Chief of the Cas Yikh House (Grizzly Bear House), Gidimt’en Clan, presented at a virtual hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

The video of their presentation can be seen on YouTube.

The presentation by Sleydo’ begins at 11:22.

She stated:

Since living at Gidimt’en Checkpoint in 2018 I have witnessed a specialized unit of police called the Community-Industry Response Group or C-IRG erect a detachment on Gidimt’en territory 29 kilometres from the nearest town. I have experienced our home sites destroyed by [the pipeline company] CGL as C-IRG threatened arrest of anyone who would intervene.

The C-IRG’s unique structure and mandate raises serious concerns about the protection of Indigenous rights in Canada. C-IRG is currently under review by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. The exercising of our rights are being treated as threats and emergencies rather than as political issues to negotiate and are delegated to militarized police forces.

Often I’m asked if I see any alternatives to the conflicts that have arisen and I always say this is a political issue that must be addressed by the state and not by state sanctioned militarized police. Instead Canada has given C-IRG $27 million to police us on our own sovereign lands in the past several years.

In 2019 weeks after the province [of British Columbia] adopted UNDRIP I was arrested and removed from my territory at gunpoint while snipers initiated lethal overwatch at Gidimt’en Checkpoint. Our Chiefs were denied access to us during the raid and land defenders sustained serious injuries.

Our Chiefs continued to assert their jurisdiction and uphold our laws resulting in another raid in 2020 where I was surrounded by C-IRG officers in the dark and threatened with arrest when I was 8 months pregnant with my youngest child.

In 2021 I was occupying a tiny house alongside the road to CGL’s proposed drill site when we were surrounded by militarized police in green fatigues with assault rifles who were dropped out of helicopters all around us. They cut the internet, trained their snipers on us from behind buildings and heavy machinery and used an axe and then a chainsaw to illegally break down the door without an arrest or search warrant.

After 56 days of upholding our law and defending our sacred headwaters I stared down the barrel of a semi-automatic weapon while the dogs snarled and whined and was once again removed from my territory, spent 5 days in 7 different jail cells in 3 different towns.

Down the hill our Chief’s daughter experienced the same use of violence against her and the log cabin that was built for her was burnt to the ground under the watch of C-IRG. Today I cannot live at the village site because of the heavy surveillance, threat of violence and arrest from police and the harassment of CGL’s private security firm Forsythe.

The police regularly patrol my home which is nowhere near the pipeline right of way. I wake up some mornings and they are sitting in my driveway.

The police have teamed up with private industry to make it unbearable live on our territories and practice our way of life.

The presentation by Chief Na’Moks begins at 18:52.

He highlighted:

“We see that Canada is vying for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. This should not even be considered until the human rights in Canada are addressed and commitments made are completed. Canada can no longer continue to tell the world that they are a free and democratic country until they’ve proved to the world that they truly are.”

The presentation by Hugh Adsett, Canada’s ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), begins at 26:35.

He noted: “My goal in participating today is primarily to gain a better understanding of the petitioners’ concerns and provide some general and initial context that may help inform the commission’s own analysis.”

Adsett made these general comments despite having advance access to the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s written submission.

Chief Na’Moks later commented: “Canada’s unwillingness to explain its actions shows an embarrassing disrespect for our Nation’s rights and the rights of all Indigenous Peoples in so-called Canada. Over and over, international human rights watchdogs and civil society groups have condemned Canada for violating our right to defend our territory, our laws, and our way of life. The government should have no trouble speaking to the attacks on our people that they have committed in the light of day.”

We continue to follow this with concern.

Further reading: Canada fails to respond to Wet’suwet’en Nation’s claims in hearing at Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Amnesty International, July 11, 2023).

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

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