Canada’s Wet’suwet’en First Nations People oppose pipeline construction across their lands; police are arresting them

Canada’s Wet’suwet’en First Nations People oppose construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline across their landswithout their free, prior and informed consent. Their lands are on unceded territory in British Columbia — land not covered by a treaty. The Canadian government doesn’t recognize the rights of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have intervened and arrested land protectors who have opposed the pipeline. It has sparked protests across Canada.

Update: An article in The Tyee, Emotions High as RCMP Arrest Seven at Last Wet’suwet’en Post, says:

The RCMP made seven arrests at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre today in an attempt to evict the last Wet’suwet’en post resisting a gas pipeline through the nation’s traditional territories.

Police, including tactical squad officers armed with rifles and handlers with dogs, arrived earlier this morning in a convoy of more than 30 vehicles as a helicopter circled overhead.

Unist’ot’en Camp building with banner. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Wet’suwet’en established three camps. One of them is called Unist’ot’en. According to its website:

The Unist’ot’en homestead is not a protest or demonstration. Our clan is occupying and using our traditional territory as it has for centuries. Our free prior and informed consent protocol is in place at the entrance of or territory as an expression of our jurisdiction and our inherent right to both give and refuse consent. Our homestead is a peaceful expression of our connection to our territory. It is also an example of the continuous use and occupation of our territory of our territory by our clan. Our traditional structures of governance continue to dictate the proper use of and access to our lands and water.

The British Columbia Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink and injunction to prevent the Wet’suwet’en from blocking construction, according to an article in the Terrace Standard:

Coastal GasLink says it has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometres route but hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation say the project has no authority without their consent. …

In a statement, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs representing all five clans of the First Nation said they reject the court’s decision.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) recently launched pre-dawn raids against one of three camps. According to the website Flare’s posting: Here’s What’s Happening on Wet’suwet’en Territory. “Since the initial raid, the RCMP have reportedly arrested 28 unarmed people, with officers reportedly even going so far as to drag a naked woman out of her vehicle,” it said.

The New York Times reported Monday that the conflict has sparked protests across Canada: According to the article Canadian Police Move Against Pipeline Blockades, Arresting Dozens:

The Canadian police on Monday began moving against protesters who had set up transportation blockades around the country in sympathy with an Indigenous group’s campaign to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline to Canada’s West Coast.

The blockades affected at least 19,500 rail passengers, according to Via Rail Canada, and 200 freight trains were unable to travel.

By late Monday, more than 47 protesters had been arrested.

The Native American Journalist Association (NAJA) released a statement of support for Jerome Turner, a journalist who was trying to cover the conflict and was removed by police. “Turner was covering raids at the Gidimt’en checkpoint in unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. His movement was limited by RCMP, his ability to capture images and report on events was restricted by police,” a NAJA statement said. Police removed him from the scene and detained him for eight hours.

For updates, Google “Wet’suwet’en” and “pipeline.”

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