PV Vancouver Bureau
On January 7, militarized RCMP descended onto unceded Wet’suwet’en lands to enforce a court injunction. Fourteen people were arrested including Gitdumden spokesperson Molly Wickham. One elder was released and 13 land defenders and supporters will appeared in court in Prince George the next day.
Rallies in 55 cities across Canada and internationally took place on Jan. 8 to express solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en defending their unceded lands from unwanted fracked gas development.
According to the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gitdumden territory, who issued the call for international solidarity, “All Wet’suwet’en Clans have rejected the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline because this is our home. Our medicines, our berries, our food, the animals, our water, our culture are all here since time immemorial. We are obligated to protect our ways of life for our babies unborn.”
“Canada knows that its own actions are illegal,” further states the Wet’suwet’en Access Point. “The Wet’suwet’en chiefs have maintained their use and occupancy of their lands and hereditary governance system to this date despite generations of legislative policies that aim to remove us from this land, assimilate our people, and ban our governing system. The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en and the land defenders holding the front lines will never allow Wet’suwet’en sovereignty to be violated.”
According to Jan. 8 rally organizers, “We demand that the provincial and federal government uphold their responsibilities to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by revoking the permits for this fracked gas pipeline that does not have consent from any Wet’suwet’en Clan. The federal government, provincial government, Coastal GasLink/TransCanada, and the RCMP do not have jurisdiction on Wet’suwet’en land.”
Coastal GasLink, a project of TransCanada Corporation, has been constructing a 670-kilometer fracked gas pipeline to carry fracked gas from Dawson Creek, B.C. to the coastal town of Kitimat, where LNG Canada’s processing plant would be located. LNG Canada is the single largest private sector investment in Canadian history, with support from the Federal Liberal government and tax breaks from the NDP B.C. provincial government.
Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law) all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and have not provided free, prior, and informed consent to Coastal Gaslink/TransCanada to do work on Wet’suwet’en lands. The 22,000 square km of Wet’suwet’en Territory is divided into 5 clans and 13 house groups. Each clan within the Wet’suwet’en Nation has full jurisdiction under their law to control access to their territory.
The Unist’ot’en Camp is a permanent Indigenous re-occupation of Wet’suwet’en land that sits on Gilsteyu Dark House Territory. The Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gitdumden territory was announced in the Wet’suwet’en feast hall in December 2018 with the support of all chiefs present to affirm that the Unist’ot’en Clan are not alone.
In December, the B.C. Supreme Court issued a court injunction that authorizes the RCMP to forcibly clear a path through the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gitdumden territory and the Unist’ot’en homestead on Unist’ot’en territory. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the landmark 1997 Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa case that the Wet’suwet’en, as represented by their hereditary leaders, had not given up rights and title to their 22,000 square kilometers of land. Members of the RCMP met with Hereditary Chiefs in January 2019 and indicated that specially trained tactical forces will soon be deployed.
Support has been growing for the Wet’suwet’en with statements issued by national and international organizations such as 350 dot org, Heiltsuk Nation, Idle No More, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Civil Liberties Defense Center, Dogwood BC, Greenpeace Canada, Namgis First Nation, Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society, and Union of B.C Indian Chiefs.