Land Defenders on high alert at Unist’ot’en

Last week, rumours were addressed by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) that warned of a large-scale RCMP action against the Unist’ot’en camp.

On August 27th the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) sent a letter to the RCMP, warning against “an impending, and possibly large-scale, RCMP action in relation to the Unist’ot’en camp”.

“We understand that the RCMP may have already taken a decision, or be about to take a decision, that the RCMP will move in and remove people from the Unist’ot’en camp by force if necessary,” the BCCLA letter reads. “If we are mistaken in this, we hope that the RCMP will clarify this with the public immediately. We are deeply concerned that such an approach would be disastrous and would not respect the constitutionally-protected Title and Rights of the Unist’ot’en, as well as their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

On August 28, the RCMP issued a statement denying the police force intends to dismantle the Unist’ot’en camp.

Likhts’amisyu hereditary chief Toghestiy stated on the Unist’ot’en website, “Unist’ot’en and Grassroots Wet’suwet’en have consistently stated that they will not allow such a pipeline to pass through their territory. The federal and provincial governments, as well as Indian Act tribal councils or bands, have no right or jurisdiction to approve development on Unist’ot’en lands. By consulting only with elected Indian Act tribal councils and bands, the Canadian government breaks its own laws as outlined in the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw decision which recognizes Hereditary adjudication processes.”

Indigenous nations such as the Wet’suwet’en existed thousands of years before Europeans knew of a land beyond the Atlantic Ocean. And judging by the environmental stance taken by them and their Hereditary Chiefs they plan to remain for thousands of years into the future.

In the Northwest area of what is now called British Columbia, their ancient territory extends from Burns Lake to the Coastal Mountains. These lands have never been surrendered or ceded and the Wet’suwet’en have never entered into international treaty with the Crown. The Wet’suwet’en are sovereign people.

In 2010 the Pacific Trail natural gas pipeline hit a road block when Chevron tried to unilaterally build on unceded territory. The Wet’suwet’en established a camp in the pathway of the pipeline and many people and groups have flocked to the area in solidarity with the indigenous peoples.

Those groups include Greenpeace Canada, the UBCIC, Idle No More, and the SFU Institute for the Humanities, as well as individuals including David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, and federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

The Unist’ot’en camp was later expanded in opposition to the Northern Gateway oil pipeline which Enbridge planned to follow a similar route through the province. This oil pipeline alone is expected to cost $6.5 billion dollars.

Non-hereditary Chiefs Karen Ogen (Wet’suwet’en), Ray Morris (Nee Tahi Buhn), Dan George (Burns Lake Band) , and Rene Skin (Skin Tyee Nation) are supportive of the gas and oil pipelines and have condemned the Unist’ot’en Camp.

Related Posts