One of B.C.'s best-known Indigenous leaders has heartily condemned the B.C. RCMP's enforcement of a B.C. Supreme Court injunction on traditional and unceded land of the Wet'suwet'en people.
Under the cover of darkness early in the morning, heavily armed Mounties arrested several people at a supply camp at the 39-mile point along the Morice West Forest Service Road in northern B.C.
According to the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, this "senseless violence" occurred under the watch of the B.C. and federal governments.
"We are in absolute outrage and a state of painful anguish as we witness the Wet’suwet’en people having their title and rights brutally trampled on and their right to self-determination denied," UBCIC's president, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, said in a statement. "Forcing Indigenous peoples off their own territory is in complete and disgusting violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the Horgan government recently committed to uphold through Bill 41, and which the Trudeau government has also committed to uphold through yet to be introduced legislation.
"Indigenous rights are human rights and they cannot be ignored or sidestepped for any reason in the world, and certainly not for an economic interest," Phillip continued. "We call on the RCMP to immediately stand down, and we call on the Crown to immediately take responsibility for ending this violence.”
Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. obtained the civil injunction so it can proceed with its $6.6-billion, 670-kilometre project, which will bring fracked natural gas from northeastern B.C. to an LNG Canada plant in Kitimat.
UBCIC secretary-treasurer Kukpi7 Judy Wilson said that her organization rejects "the insulting notion that the Crown and RCMP did everything they could to prevent this".
"There are always options that can be taken by the Crown," she said. "It is never an option to have a pipeline go through the territory of the proper title and rights holders who have not provided their consent.
"Premier Horgan, we have to ask, why didn’t you just go meet with the Hereditary Chiefs when you were invited, and stop this from happening? No schedule is too busy to accommodate a meeting that could have had major impacts on preventing the violence we are all now witnessing.”
The president of Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd., David Pfeiffer, stated in an open letter that he found it "disappointing" that Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs sought to have the company's legal permits revoked by the B.C. government.
"We are grateful to the province for their commitment to our project and for their respect for the six years of exceptional effort expended to achieve not only our permits but also the support of our 20 partner Indigenous communities, local communities and the public who recognize the benefits our project will deliver," Pfeiffer wrote.
He also stated that the RCMP action "is not the outcome we wanted".
However, Chief Don Tom, vice president of the UBCIC, said that using armed force to remove Indigenous people from their unceded and traditional territories against their will is "colonialism in all of its ugliness and hypocrisy".
"We are humbled and inspired by the resolute and unwavering commitment of the Wet’suwet’en people to defend their territories from a resource extraction project that will have dire impacts on their lands and waters and accelerate climate change," Tom stated. "I repeat the wise words of Na’Moks, hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en, who stated ‘we remain peaceful and respectful because we are on the right side of history.' "
National chief calls for dialogue
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde issued the following statement:
"I am urging peace and I condemn any acts of violence in enforcing the injunction brought against the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and their supporters. The use of force against peaceful people is a violation of human rights and First Nations’ rights. The RCMP is sworn to uphold Canada’s law, but Canada must respect First Nations laws and Wet’suwet’en laws. Canada’s highest law – the Constitution – affirms in section 35 the inherent rights of First Nations and our right to self-determination.
"We will never achieve reconciliation through force. If this is really about the ‘rule of law’ then governments should be honouring the rights and title of First Nations in their traditional territories. The only way to resolve this is open dialogue amongst all parties, including dialogue with and within the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Going forward, we need to work at implementing First Nations laws as equal to common law and civil law.
"The AFN supports the governance and decision-making process of the Wet’suwet’en leaders. Canada and B.C. should do the same.”