Wet'suwet'en accuse RCMP of invading their territory; Mounties claim metal spikes placed on forest service road

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      (Warning: this is longer than most articles that appear on media websites.)

      The fight between the Canadian state and the Wet'suwet'en Nation over the Coastal GasLink pipeline intensified on Friday (February 7).

      The Unist'ot'en Twitter account claimed that two hereditary chiefs were denied access to their own territories on Friday by the RCMP. And Gidimt'en Chief Woos' daughter, Eve Saint, was arrested.

      In addition, a member of the Gitxsan Nation, Denzel Sutherland-Wilson, was also among the four people arrested at the Gidim'ten Checkpoint at the 44-kilometre point along the Morice West Forest Service Road.

      According to the Unist'ot'en Twitter feed, the Gitxsan are their oldest allies.

      Meanwhile, Gidimt'en spokesperson Molly Wickham, a.k.a. Sleydo', told reporters earlier in the day that the RCMP had "no jurisdiction" to arrest six protesters on Thursday at the 39-kilometre mark of the Morice West Forest Service Road.

      She declared that nobody there was in violation of the court order obtained by Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd., describing the gathering as a "humanitarian camp".

      "Everybody has been released because there's no—absolutely no—grounds, to have them arrested in the first place and remove them off of our territory," Wickham said. "They're invited guests on Tsaiex house territory and they [the RCMP] have absolutely no right to take them out of there."

      The RCMP has defended its actions by saying it's required to enforce the B.C. Supreme Court order.

      Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, on the other hand, insist that they've never ceded their land and point out that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1997 that their Aboriginal title still exists and was not extinguished when B.C. joined Confederation in 1871.

      The hereditary chiefs have opposed all pipelines on their traditional territory and say the Coastal GasLink project violates Wet'suwet'en law.

      Vehicles blocked police for hours

      On Friday, the Mounties expanded a no-go zone to the four-kilometre mark on the Morice West Forest Service Road while still allowing industry officials, hereditary chiefs, and media to go as far as the 27-kilometre mark.

      It came after supporters of the Wet'suwet'en Nation used vehicles to block the access road for several hours at the 27-kilometre mark, stopping RCMP vehicles and company contractors from leaving the area.

      According to the Mounties, this direct action delayed transporting arrested people to the Houston RCMP detachment and violated the injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink on traditional unceded Wet'suwet'en territory.

      In addition, the Mounties claimed that metal spikes were placed on the Morice West Forest Service Road with an intention to damage vehicles.

      The B.C. RCMP distributed these photos.
      RCMP handout

      In contrast to the RCMP's assertions, the director of clinical programming for the Unist'ot'en Healing Center, Karla Tait, said that she and other Wet'suwet'en women are taking a stance in defence of the land "unarmed, peacefully, with our hearts and our minds clear".

      In a videotaped message, Tait said that women are the life givers in Wet'suwet'en matrilineal culture—and she's there for her five-year-old daughter and for her future grandchildren. 

      "Our children and grandchildren deserve the honour and the dignity of growing up on our territory," Tait said. "They deserve to know what it means to be Wet'suwet'en. They deserve to feel and know the richness of these lands."

      She maintained that the women's actions are in keeping with their own laws and traditions.

      "We keep our commitments to these lands," Tait said. "We keep our word, unlike Canada and the Province of B.C., whose empty proclamations that they’re seeking reconciliation with Indigenous people or they’re looking to ratify the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People into law here in B.C.

      "Those promises were made just this year and they were broken already this morning when they invaded our territories and arrested people acting under the direction of our chiefs," she added. "And we anticipate they’re going to break their word again by invading our territorial boundary here at the Wedzin Kwah (Morice) River and arresting us for existing on our territory and trying to create a self-determined future that is healthy and strong for our people living as we always have. There’s no justice in that.”

      Spokesperson says investors are fearful

      Wickham was arrested during a previous RCMP raid on the Gidimt'en Checkpoint on January 7, 2019. At that time, the RCMP employed "lethal overwatch", which the Guardian newspaper characterized as the national police force being prepared to shoot Indigenous activists should they have resisted.

      Wickham is not there to face the RCMP this month because she's seven months pregnant.

      According to her, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. obtained an extension on its B.C. Supreme Court in December with the main purpose of eliminating this checkpoint.

      When asked if she felt fear, Wickham replied: "I think there's more fear in the RCMP. There's more fear in the companies. There's more fear for the investors in this project than there ever will be fear in one of those people that are there defending our territory."

      This comment came after LNG prices hit a record low on the benchmark Japan Korea Marker, falling to US$3 per million British thermal units.

      Coastal GasLink's owner, TransCanada, recently sold a 65 percent stake in the company to Alberta's public-sector pension manager and New York-based KKR.

      Meanwhile, Royal Dutch Shell, which is the largest shareholder in the LNG Canada project, has also seen its stock plunge in the wake of the Coastal GasLink controversy. It reached a 52-week low this week.

      The pipeline will supply fracked gas to the LNG Canada plant being built in Kitimat as part of a $40-billion capital project.

      Royal Dutch Shell's share price has taken a tumble over the past month, falling to a 52-week low this week.

      Wickham also said that she thinks the RCMP needs to be held accountable for its use of force in enforcing the court injunction.

      "Everything that they're doing here is illegal, not only against Wet'suwet'en law but under their own law—under the constitution, the Section 35 rights of Indigenous people, the UNDRIP," she insisted. "All of those things are in addition to breaking and violating Wet'suwet'en law.

      "Their exclusion zone is illegal," she continued. "The arrests that they made are illegal. Everything that they're doing on our territory is illegal and violating our inherent rights and responsibilities, and human rights internationally."

      In addition, she alleged that the RCMP has been part of a colonial effort to kill Indigenous peoples for hundreds of years since Europeans came into contact with them.

      "We don't fear them," she said. "They continue to harass us, they continue to harass and invade us constantly. And they've never stopped.

      "What I fear is that people will remain complacent in the way that the world is right now. The only thing that I fear is that the world will continue to let this happen. And I think that that's very unlikely if you look at all the actions taking place around the world."

      She closed her comments with reporters by saying that whatever is done to the Wet'suwet'en people, they will never stop fighting and they will never be beaten.

      "This problem is not going away for B.C.," Wickham warned. "This is not going away for Canada. It's certainly not going away for CGL at any time in the future."