Editorial: RCMP’s Brutalization of Wet’suwet’en Is a Dark Stain on Canada

We’re Way Beyond Reconciliation

Graphic Carl Bindman

Canada must abandon lip service to reconciliation and immediately remove the Royal Mounted Canadian Police from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s land.

This article was updated to include a list of ways to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nations

The Wet’suwet’en people have been met with state brutality for over a year now while fighting against the $6.6 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline that will run through their territory . This is cultural genocide on stolen land.

On Sunday, The Narwhal reported that the United Nations called for an end to the standoff at the Unistʼotʼen camp as Canada’s law, policy, and practice for consultation with Indigenous communities do not meet global human rights standards. The Guardian reported in December that the RCMP even had permission to shoot those protecting the land.

“In a two-page decision statement, the [Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] said it is alarmed by the escalating threat of violence against Indigenous Peoples in B.C. and disturbed by the ‘forced removal, disproportionate use of force, harassment, and intimidation by law enforcement officials against Indigenous peoples who peacefully oppose large-scale development projects’ on their traditional territories,” The Narwhal reported.

Monday, the RCMP arrested matriarchs Freda Huson (Chief Howihkat) and Brenda Michell (Chief Geltiy), along with Karla Tait, director of clinical programs at the Unist’ot’en Healing Center. The arrests took place during a ceremony honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls—which has been deemed a human rights crisis. They say more arrests took place that day.

The homeland of the Wet’suwet’en First Nations is threatened to be destroyed to build the 670-kilometre pipeline.

Land defenders carry out non-violent demonstrations to defend their land. They are simply protecting their territory. The number of arrests keeps rising as they stand their ground and are brutalized by the RCMP.

Activists in Vancouver and Ontario have also initiated protests in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders, blocking train lines and access to shipping ports. #ShutDownCanada has been trending on Twitter, and accounts such as @UnistotenCamp have been posting live coverage of the invasion.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan claimed to be continuing the conversation with the Indigenous communities at Wet’suwet’en and hopes for a “peaceful resolution.” But, he said the pipeline project will continue since it “abides by the rule of the law.”

Negotiations and conversations have no value if the government can still set aside the interests and safety of Indigenous communities for capital gain.

How can there be hope for reconciliation between the Canadian government and Indigenous Peoples when they are being pushed out of the lands on which they built their communities? The pipeline will contaminate their land and prevent the Wet’suwet’en Nation from hunting, fishing, and peacefully practicing their culture.

Their livelihood depends on that land, and it belongs to them. They did not cede the land or give informed consent prior to the project. And let’s not kid ourselves, “ceded land” is still stolen land; in many cases, Indigenous Peoples had to sign forcefully, through bribery, or deceit.

The RCMP has also been restricting the media’s ability to report on the ongoing resistance. Journalists were prevented from accessing the site, forcefully removed, and even detained.

In many cases, mainstream media didn’t include Indigenous voices, though they are the ones who know what’s going on, they are the experts of the land, and they’re the ones experiencing this cultural genocide. It’s their story to tell, not colonial settlers. Media should amplify their voices, not speak over them or bury them beneath “experts.”

Canada doesn’t want the world watching—which is why we must pay attention.

This is a stain on Canada’s reputation. Give Indigenous Peoples their lands back: shut Canada down.

To stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nations you can: