PBI-Canada hosts webinar on Gitxsan and Gitanyow resistance to colonial mega-projects

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On Tuesday March 5, Peace Brigades International-Canada convened a webinar hosted by Board member Seb Bonet, who is based on Lekwungen and WSÁNEĆ territories, that featured Kai Nagata, Tara Marsden, Kolin Sutherland-Wilson and Maryam Adrangi speaking about Gitxsan and Gitanyow resistance to colonial mega-projects.

Kai Nagata

Kai Nagata, the communications director for Dogwood, a British Columbia non-profit dedicated to climate justice, Indigenous rights and democratic reform, highlighted several megaprojects threatening Gitxsan and Gitanyow territory.

Nagata began by noting the TC Energy Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project (PRGT), a fracked gas pipeline that is already permitted to proceed.

This pipeline would impact both Gitxsan and Gitanyow territory as it extends to the proposed Ksi Lisims Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminal on Pearse Island north of Prince Rupert on Nisga’a territory.

He also mentioned the Enbridge Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission pipeline that would go through Gitxsan and Gitanyow territory.

He highlighted that both projects have permits that expire in November.

Nagata also mentioned the proposed Vopak bulk liquids export terminal in Prince Rupert on Gitxsan territory, and the proposed JX LNG Canada Summit Lake PG LNG project in Prince George that would ship to Prince Rupert.

And he mentioned the proposed KSM Mining project, a proposed gold, copper, silver and molybdenum mine near Stewart, that would require a massive tailings dam above the Nass River watershed.

Tara Marsden

Tara Marsden, the Wilp Sustainability Director for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs, then stated: “What we learned from the Wet’suwet’en [resisting the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on their territory] is that these projects were not about economic reconciliation, they are actually about domination over our people and our lands.”

She added: “Our learning is that consent only works when we say yes, if we say no, even if we say no with science behind us, and our knowledge and our laws behind us, then we will be met with force from the C-IRG [the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Community-Industry Response Group], from militarized invasion and occupation and intimidation and harassment.”

Marsden highlighted the climate change/greenhouse gas emissions concerns related to the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project, Ksi Lisims and the Site C hydroelectric dam (and additional dams) needed to power mega-projects like this.

Specifically, she noted the proposed BC Hydro North Coast transmission line, that would run from Prince George to Terrace to power LNG, that could be exempt from environmental assessment if BC Hydro gets its way.

Kolin Sutherland-Wilson

Next, Gitxsan land defender and protection specialist Kolin Sutherland-Wilson noted: “Coastal GasLink is all the evidence we need of how the province operates, how these industries operate, and what their overall strategy is to effectively contain the Delgamuukw decision because what we’ve seen is efforts at all levels to essentially not give any weight to this idea that Gitxsan or Gitanyow or Wet’suwet’en, that any of our territories can effectively act independently of the Canadian state.”

He then highlighted: “The most recent case of Dsta’hyl, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief of the Likhts’amisyu Clan, where he was the first of the Dini’ze [chief] to be charged with the violation of the Coastal GasLink injunction. And in that decision, the Justice [Michael Tammen] made it explicitly clear that they could not reconcile what they called imprecisely defined Wet’suwet’en trespass law with the Canadian courts which in this case was the injunctive relief order that was issued by the Supreme Court of Canada to essentially stop Wet’suwet’en resistance to the Coastal GasLink project.”

Sutherland-Wilson added: “In my experience with them [the C-IRG], I’ve noticed even as part of their training they receive anti- Delgamuukw, anti-Aboriginal rights and title argumentative training. I can’t tell you how many times where I’ve simply gotten into a shouting match with an officer and his whole position is adamantly well the courts never recognized your title, that it doesn’t exist.”

And he further cautioned that the resources, the critical minerals necessary for the green energy transition, lithium, antimony and copper, are all on Gitxsan territory with the risk of it becoming a sacrifice zone for this transition.

Maryam Adrangi

Then Maryam Adrangi, the Canadian Activism Manager for Ben & Jerry’s, spoke about what resistance looks like as electoral politics shifts to the right.

Adrangi said: “What that means for our organizing and our movements is that we really have to organize outside those electoral politics. We can’t just say disband the C-IRG, disband the Critical Response Unit [the new name for the C-IRG], we have to set the stage where they are not even allowed in our communities.”

She added: “It came out recently that the C-IRG were seen as the ‘national best practice’ of policing, but this unit is currently under review by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, supposedly the watchdog for police.”

Adrangi highlighted: “The C-IRG are so present and so active in northern BC along Highway 16 where people are so actively saying that they don’t want these projects. And what’s happening, are politicians saying okay we won’t put in these projects, no, they are sending in this policing unit with an inflated budget to squash the resistance.”

She concluded: “When there is growth in resistance, we see the growth in repression. We need to be there [when there is repression against the Gitxsan and Gitanyow when they resist colonial mega-projects].”

For more information, see the Gitanyow Chiefs website, particularly the news section, and this petition against Enbridge’s Zombie Pipeline, the Westcoast Connector pipeline.

Peace Brigades International physically accompanies Indigenous land defenders and environmental struggles in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras, and seeks to make the links to similar land defence struggles on the lands known as Canada. For a 6-minute video about our work in Colombia, click here.

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