B.C.'s top cop has come under intense criticism for declaring a provincial emergency under the Provincial Police Service Agreement in connection with the Coastal GasLink dispute.
The Straight revealed this week that Solicitor General Mike Farnworth had written a letter in late January to the B.C. RCMP's commanding officer. In it, Farnworth authorized the "internal redeployment of resources within the Provincial Police Services" to enforce a B.C. Supreme Court injunction obtained by the pipeline company.
Two weeks after that letter was sent, Premier John Horgan claimed that his government has "no authority...to direct the RCMP in the fulfillment of its responsibilities".
As a result of this apparent contradiction, a new political party, the B.C. Ecosocialists, and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs have each called for Farnworth's resignation for allowing a monumental show of RCMP force on unceded Wet'suwet'en territory in early February.
"Although the fact that the NDP was, on one hand, stating that their Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, does not make high-level law enforcement decisions for B.C., while, on the other, blaming Farnworth’s predecessor for the enforcement decisions taken on his watch, beggared belief, we were not in possession of direct confirmation of Farnworth’s oversight until today," B.C. Ecosocialists spokesperson Stuart Parker stated in a party news release.
"The documents uncovered by Charlie Smith were a matter of public record," he continued. "The fact that there appears to have been no attempt to cover their tracks by the B.C. NDP indicates the low esteem they have for the intelligence of British Columbians.”
Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs have repeatedly said that the pipeline project is illegal under their laws.
Parker has previously accused Farnworth of ordering the RCMP invasion on unceded Wet'suwet'en traditional territory in early February.
In an email to the Houston Today newspaper, however, Farnworth insisted that "no elected official in British Columbia directs police operations".
The Mounties created a large exclusion zone along the Morice West Forest Service Road as it was making arrests in early February.
"Just as we have stated, from the beginning of this escalation, the B.C. NDP intentionally pursued the same callous and dangerous course as it did in the 1995 Gustafsen Lake standoff,” Parker said.
When the RCMP used heavy firepower against Indigenous sovereignists in 1995, Farnworth was a backbench NDP MLA and Horgan was an analyst in the NDP government's policy coordination branch.
Parker, a former leader of the B.C. Greens, insisted that Horgan's recently appointed envoy to the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, former NDP MP Nathan Cullen, has falsely claimed that the decision to escalate actions was made by the feds and not Farnworth.
“This latter effort to mislead the public should and does concern all British Columbians, irrespective of their views on Indigenous rights, Aboriginal title, climate change, fracking or pipelines," Parker said.
The B.C. Ecosocialists have called on the province to immediately rescind permits for the $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline, which will deliver fracked natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada plant in Kitimat.
Parker also wants permits cancelled for LNG Canada, which is consortium led by Royal Dutch Shell and includes Mitsubishi, Korea Gas, Petronas, and Petro China.
Meanwhile, UBCIC president Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said that Farnworth's January 27 letter "reveals the blatant hypocrisy and lies of the provincial NDP government on the Wet'suwet'en crisis".
The same day that Farnworth's letter was sent to the B.C. RCMP, Horgan appointed Cullen to act as a liaison between his government and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.
"Farnworth sat silently while Premier Horgan unabashedly lied that the Province did not direct RCMP actions," Phillip alleged in a B.C. Civil Liberties Association news release on Friday (March 6). "This is an act of government deceit not only against the Wet’suwet’en but of the public at-large. The province’s rhetoric about reconciliation rings even hollower."
Chief Na'Moks, a Wet'suwet'en hereditary chief, stated in the same news release that the "province bears responsibility for the heavy RCMP deployment and for the policing of our people on our own territories".
"In many of our discussions, the province was passing the buck for RCMP operations but this letter spells it out in black and white," Chief Na'Moks said. "The provincial government can no longer deny responsibility for the Indigenous rights and human rights violations happening on our territories.
"We have come to the table with respect and truth but the province is not demonstrating respectful or truthful conduct," he continued. "We have always asserted our laws and presence peacefully, yet the province authorized the extra deployment of RCMP against us. Canada and B.C. must answer to this mistruth and absolutely must change its ways.”
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association's executive director, Harsha Walia, declared that the Wet'suwet'en people, as well as B.C. residents, have a right to know the justification for Farnworth's "unprecedented authorization".
"It is inconsistent for the provincial government to, on the one hand, legislate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as state non-interference in policing operations and, on the other hand, authorize a RCMP deployment aimed at over-policing and criminalizing Indigenous peoples on their own territories," she said.