Content warning: This article discusses police violence against Indigenous women.
“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 land.”
On November 19, the RCMP raided resistance camp Coyote Camp that occupies a site slated to be used by CoastalGas Link crews to drill the pipeline beneath the Wedzin Kwa river. RCMP officers removed Indigenous women from their land with impunity at gunpoint on behalf of TC Energy’s proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline.
A video posted on Twitter by @Gidimten depicts the events that took place.
Land defenders, including the well-known fierce activist Sleydo’ Molly Wickham of Cas Yikh house, Gidimt’en Clan, had been protecting Wet’suwet’en waters for 56 days at the time that RCMP officers prepared for the assault.
Armed with guns and tactical gear, RCMP surrounded the building they were sheltered in and cut off their internet access. In the video, the defenders are seen preparing for the assault.
When the officers approached the door, the Wet’suwet’en defenders could be heard announcing, “You are trespassing against Wet’suwet’en law. Do you have a search warrant or an arrest warrant?”
RCMP left only briefly to attempt to gain access to a nearby cabin that was housing an Indigenous woman who also demanded a warrant for entry.
Upon their return, the video shows them immediately begin to violently break down the door, “justifying” entry based on an injunction put in place by the BC Supreme Court in 2019.
Injunctions are intended to be temporary and, in this case, the complexities and conflict between Indigenous juridical practices and the Western legal system is not addressed in the injunction.
Guns were drawn on the land defenders upon entry. Police were asked multiple times to lower their guns. A chainsaw, that RCMP found on the camp, could be heard starting up as well as a dog barking in the background which was described to be an “attack dog.”
RCMP then began to chainsaw down the entrance to the cabin. Officers also used axes found at the camp to break down the door.
Officers began to immediately arrest the Wet’suwet’en resisters. Over two days, 32 people were arrested, including three members of the media and three legal observers.
Two of the defenders, Corey Jayhcee Jocko and Jocey Alec, described the experience as being, “tortured, kidnapped, and held hostage.”
Since the ambush, the home they were living in has been unlawfully bulldozed and burned down.
Another instance of unconscionable inhumanity at the hands of RCMP is the arrest of two trans Cree women of colour who have been held in the men’s side of prison against their wishes while being denied medication for over 24 hours.
Canada’s high courts have acknowledged that the Wet’suwet’en people have never ceded nor surrendered title to the 22,000 square kilometres of Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia. See the Delgamuukw decision.
In order to understand the gravity of police violence against Indigenous folks, we must acknowledge the fundamentally colonialist beginnings of the RCMP.
The RCMP was created to control Indigenous people and forcibly remove them from their lands — plain and simple — and this persists today.
The job of Mounties was to effectively clear the Prairies of Indigenous peoples and move them onto reserves whether they wanted to or not.
To support Wet’suwet’en land and water defenders, folks are being asked to:
- Take action. Host a solidarity rally or action in your community.
- Issue a solidarity statement from your organization or group.
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pressure the government, banks, and investors.
- Donate at https://www.yintahaccess.com
*Wedzin Kwa is the Wet’suwet’en name for the Morice River in British Columbia
We recognize and respectfully acknowledge that the operations of the University of New Brunswick’s student publication, The Brunswickan, take place on unsurrendered and unceded traditional territory of the Wolastoqiyik. The territory served by this magazine is covered by the Treaties of Peace and Friendship which the Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq, and Passamaquoddy peoples first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with the surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized the Wolastoqey, Mi’kmaq, and Passamoquoddy title and established the roles for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.
The British Crown proved, and continues in its settler-colonial form as the government of Canada to prove, incapable of respecting or honouring these treaties in good faith.
To honour the continuing sovereignty and independence of the Wolastoqiyik and Mi’kmaq, as well as the land and waterways on which The Brunswickan and all of its members and readers depend, we pledge to uplift Indigenous voices whenever and wherever possible. A simple territorial acknowledgement is not enough. We pledge our action, resources, and support, and readily give our space when it is wanted and needed. For more details, contact email@example.com