As Justin Trudeau calls for end to rail barricades, Wet'suwet'en and Mohawks set conditions for talks
There have been several developments today in the ongoing dispute between Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the federal and provincial governments.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that barricades at railways must be taken down.
Activists who sympathize with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs have been staging occupations across or beside rail lines at different times in B.C., Ontario, and Quebec since RCMP raided traditional unceded Wet'suwet'en territory on February 6.
The Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs heading their five clans say that the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which is slated to cross their territory, is illegal under Wet'suwet'en law.
"The leadership within these indigenous communities will find a way to bring down these barricades peacefully, but as a federal government, we have exhausted our capacity to engage in a positive, substantive active way, at our initiative, to resolve this," Trudeau said. "The onus has now shifted to onto indigenous leadership to look to continue this path of reconciliation in this difficult situation."
Trudeau didn't offer any specifics.
To date, organizations and corporations have been obtaining court injunctions creating protest-free zones. These civil orders are being enforced by local police forces, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the B.C. RCMP.
Trudeau's authority does not extend over individual police forces—that's within the purview of municipal and provincial governments—and he's given no indication that he'll order the Canadian Armed Forces to take action.
After Trudeau spoke, the Unist'ot'en Camp issued a statement on Facebook that the B.C. RCMP and a Critical Incident Response Group "have in fact increased harassment, made illegal arrests, increased surveillance, and monitoring of Wet'suwet'en people and their invited guests".
"This is completely unacceptable and far from a show of good faith," the Unist'ot'en Camp declared. "We remain deeply concerned by the myriad of laws that Canada has broken including Wet’suwet’en law, the Canadian Constitution, UNDRIP, and the Geneva Convention on Genocide."
The Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs have issued the following conditions before nation-to-nation talks can be held:
* "We demand that the remote detachment (Community Industry Safety Office) established by the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory without our consent be immediately removed and that the RCMP are completely removed from our territory and cease patrols from our lands. Out means out";
* "We demand that all CGL activities cease within Wet’suwet’en territory while nation-to-nation talks are ongoing as pursuant to the eviction notice that was delivered to them on January 4th, 2020";
* "We commit to entering into nation to nation discussions with Canada and BC once the above two demands are met and we insist when these discussions occur, that they will be held on Wet’suwet’en territory to ensure exclusivity for our nation’s Dini ze’ and Tsakiy ze’ (hereditary chiefs), and the members we are accountable to, in accordance with our law.”
The $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office in 2014.
Today, however, the Unist'ot'en issued a news release saying that the EAO has rejected an application for a permit in the heart of Gidimt'en and Unist'ot'en traditional territory. The Unist'ot'en is a house group within the Gilseyhu (Big Frog) clan under the Wet'suwet'en's hereditary governance system. The Gidimt'en is the Wolf and Bear clan that includes three house grouops.
According to the Unist'ot'en, the EAO rejected the pipeline company's technical data report "due to the omission of significant economic, environmental, social and health impacts".
"We identified the gaps in CGL's report months ago, by letters and in person," Unist'ot'en Healing Centre clinical programming director Karla Tait said. "Had the province intervened to confirm the reports' shortcomings they could have prevented the injunction enforcement, sparing us the violent removal from our lands and sparing the country the subsequent economic pressures of solidary actions.
"The continued presence of the CGL and RCMP [on] our territory is unlawful and this decision by EAO gives the province grounds to call for their immediate evacuation."