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CD stands with the Wet’suwet’en

We stand in solidarity with Indigenous land defenders and their struggle to exercise sovereignty and protect their territories

Indigenous Politics

Along with many other progressive forces in the settler community, CD stands in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and their struggle to exercise their sovereignty and protect their land. Image by Canadian Dimension.

On the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation last September, Denis Coderre, former Liberal MP and cabinet minister, who was then campaigning for a second stint as mayor of Montréal, attended an Every Child Matters event where, in a stellar display of hypocrisy and tone deafness, he promised to resurrect the statue of John A. Macdonald in Place du Canada, where the monument had been torn down in protest about a year earlier in the wake of a demonstration in favour of defunding the police.

In retrospect, this dismal incident appears as a kind of portent for the revival not merely of the symbol of colonial violence that is Canada’s first prime minister but of the recurring pattern of recourse to armed aggression against Indigenous peoples that he inaugurated. It was only a few short months after the Canadian parliament declared the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation an annual statutory holiday that the RCMP was dispatched to resume the violent suppression of Wet’suwet’en resistance to the pipeline that Coastal GasLink is determined to drive through their territory, aided and abetted by the Canadian state. He may don an orange shirt, but the leopard does not change his spots.

The trigger for the latest round of repression was the occupation of a pipeline worksite on Gidimt’en clan territory in northwestern British Columbia with the aim of preventing drilling under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River). But the stage was set for conflict the moment the Unis’tot’en clan started re-occupying Wet’suwet’en territory 12 years ago to affirm their sovereignty and block oil and gas development on their lands. When Coastal GasLink began to have trouble sending in workers to clear the route for its planned fracked methane gas pipeline, it turned to the obliging repressive apparatus of the colonial state.

The BC Supreme Court issued an injunction on December 31, 2019, and direct conflict erupted in January 2019, when the Canadian government sent in the RCMP to dismantle the checkpoint established by the Unist’ot’en clan in order to allow Coastal GasLink to undertake pre-construction activity. The government invoked the pretext that the Wet’suwet’en band council chiefs had given their consent to the project when it is actually the hereditary chiefs—who oppose the pipeline—who have a stronger legal claim to jurisdiction over the unceded territory based on a 1997 Supreme Court decision.

In February 2020, police action was taken, replete with helicopters, armed officers and dogs, after hereditary chiefs closed the Morice West Forest Service Road. Writing about the crackdown at the time, journalist Kai Nagata conveyed in two succinct sentences how it revealed the flimsiness of the commitment to reconciliation and nation-to-nation relationships on the part of the ruling powers (in this instance both the federal Liberals under Justin Trudeau and the provincial NDP under John Horgan): “Yesterday the RCMP chainsawed through a gate at the Unist’ot’en healing centre painted with the word RECONCILIATION. The police interrupted a ceremony for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls—to put Wet’suwet’en matriarchs in handcuffs.” It had been less than four months since Horgan’s government had passed legislation to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

A groundswell of support for the Wet’suwet’en rose across Turtle Island. Protests and blockades were organized. Solidarity rallies took place in dozens of cities in Canada and beyond. And yet 21 months later, after a lull during the pandemic, here we are again watching heavily armed RCMP tactical teams arrest peaceful land and water defenders to open up an access road to bring supplies to Coastal GasLink work camps. The headlines read like old news: “Land defenders arrested on Wet’suwet’en territory as RCMP enforces Coastal GasLink injunction.”

In a move unusual even for the RCMP, several journalists were also arrested on the pretext that they were “embedded in the protests.” Two remain in custody: photojournalist Amber Bracken of the Narwhal and documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano, who has been living in the Wet’suwet’en territory for several years while at work on a film about the resistance movement.

As reported by the Tyee and the Narwhal, this latest confrontation had been building over many months. The Wet’suwet’en had accused Coastal GasLink of clearing an archeological site and polluting watersheds, a charge confirmed by BC’s Environmental Assessment Office. But set against the capitalist quest for growth and the imperatives of the Canadian petro-state, their fears, claims, evidence and rights have little traction.

Along with many other progressive forces in the settler community, Canadian Dimension stands in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and their struggle to exercise their sovereignty and protect their land from the dominant destructive model of economic development, which is so clearly a threat to the natural world and, by extension, the future of humankind. We are outraged by the unceasing injustice and harm visited upon Indigenous communities in Canada and we are committed to amplifying their voices and supporting their demands. We can do no better than to echo the words of Glen Coulthard (Red Skin, White Masks):

Land has been stolen, and significant amounts of it must be returned. Power and authority have been unjustly appropriated, and much of it will have to be reinstated. This will inevitably be very upsetting to some; it will be incredibly inconvenient to others. But it is what needs to happen if we are to create a more just and sustainable life in this country for the bulk of Indigenous communities, and for the majority of non-Indigenous people as well.

For updates, follow Gidimt’en Checkpoint on Twitter.


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