Unceded Algonquin Anishinaabe Territories [OTTAWA], 6 June 2022:
Climate Action Network Canada, Amnistie internationale Canada francophone, and fifty-seven other civil society organizations sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan today, calling on them to comply with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and remove police and security forces from the Wet’suwet’en and Secwepemc territories.
In recent weeks, police surveillance and harassment against Wet’suwet’en land defenders has risen as Coastal GasLink prepares to drill beneath the Wedzin Kwa, the sacred headwaters of the Wet’suwet’en. The hereditary chiefs of all five Wet’suwet’en clans – whose title to the land is recognized by the Supreme Court – have refused to give their consent to the project, which would threaten a major source of drinking water for communities in the territory and a spawning ground for wild salmon.
Daily intimidation and harassment of land defenders by RCMP officers has been ongoing for months. Residents report that the RCMP is cutting the chains and locks on their doors, that they are threatened with arrest and fines, and prevented from organizing. Last fall, Canada earned censure at home and internationally after RCMP used violent tactics to break into a tiny house and arrest unarmed land defenders. On June 1st, British Columbia charged fifteen Coastal GasLink pipeline protesters with criminal contempt, and may charge another ten people soon.
Chief Na’Moks, the highest-ranking hereditary chief of the Tsayu (Beaver Clan) of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, said: “Although Canada has enshrined the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), they most certainly are not upholding it. They continue their tactics implemented since contact, just different wording and language. To truly uphold UNDRIP, they must show the honour of the Crown. There is no honour in their continued use of force when Indigenous Nations do not agree with their decisions.”
Meanwhile, Tiny House Warriors, a group of Secwepemc women, have been the target of surveillance and intimidation for resisting the Trans Mountain pipeline, which is owned by a Crown corporation and for which Canada has recently guaranteed a $10 billion loan. A member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation was recently sentenced to jail time for protesting the pipeline expansion on his own unceded, ancestral land – another sign of Canada’s ongoing criminalization of land defenders and water protectors.
On April 29, 2022, the CERD sent a letter condemning the governments of Canada and British Columbia for having “escalated their use of force, surveillance, and criminalization of land defenders and peaceful protesters to intimidate, remove and forcibly evict Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en Nations from their traditional lands.”
This third letter sent to the Canadian government followed CERD’s 2020 reminder of the obligation to obtain free, prior, and informed consent, and its 2019 decision calling on Canada to, among other steps, immediately cease construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, Site C dam, and Coastal GasLink pipeline; end forced evictions of the Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en peoples; guarantee that no force would be used against them; and withdraw the RCMP and associated security and policing forces.
The environmental, human rights, faith, and mothers’ and grandmothers’ groups who signed today’s letter condemn the colonial violence against land defenders. They demand that the Canadian and B.C. governments immediately comply with CERD’s decision and respond to the letter as requested by July 15, 2022. They urge Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Horgan to accept the invitation of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs to meet with them and engage in a constructive dialogue about the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and to respect the laws, self-determination and the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en and Secwepemc nations.
Read the letter from civil society organizations here.
Canada’s farthest-reaching network of organizations working on climate and energy issues, Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat (CAN-Rac) Canada is a coalition of 140 organizations operating from coast to coast to coast. Our membership brings environmental groups together with trade unions, First Nations, social justice, development, health and youth organizations, faith groups and local, grassroots initiatives.
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 10 million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. We investigate and expose the facts, whenever and wherever abuses happen. We lobby governments, and other powerful groups such as companies. Making sure they keep their promises and respect international law. By telling the powerful stories of the people we work with, we mobilize millions of supporters around the world to campaign for change and to stand in defence of activists on the frontline. We support people to claim their rights through education and training.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
Vicky Coo, Communications Lead
Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat Canada
Khoudia Ndiaye, Communications and Strategies Director
Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
email@example.com, + 1 514 766-9766 ext. 5230
Photo credit: Layla Staats