In the News June 11
Defend the Right of Wet’suwet’en to Uphold Their Hereditary Rights
RCMP Planned November Raids While in Talks with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs for Summit Meeting
Last November 14, after occupying a site for 50 days close to where Coastal GasLink was preparing to drill under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River), Wet’suwet’en land defenders issued a 10-hour warning to Coastal GasLink that it would enforce the eviction notice served on the company and that the company should remove its workers from Wet’suwet’en territory. They then proceeded to block the road to their territory.
Based on documents obtained by The Narwhal, an online environmental investigative journalism magazine, through freedom of information legislation, senior RCMP officials were in discussions with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs about convening a “summit meeting” to resolve the situation.
BC RCMP Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs had written an email on November 16 to the Office of the Wet’suwet’en as a follow-up to a discussion he’d had with its executive director, Debbie Pierre, the night before.
“I hope the Wet’suwet’en communities continue to recover from the recent COVID outbreaks,” he wrote, adding that he had had “very positive discussions” with Chief Woos, whose house territory sits at the centre of the dispute.
“However, the actions of the land defenders on Sunday that has closed off the Morice Forest Service Road has caused a number of concerns related to public safety,” he said. He concluded: “It would be difficult to for [sic] a summit meeting to occur with the RCMP if the road remains closed.”
A few hours later, Stubbs forwarded his email to Wayne Rideout, Assistant Deputy Minister and Director of Police Services with the BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “It occurred to me that it’s important to formally request in writing to the Wet’suwet’en to open up the road prior to enforcement,” he wrote. “I don’t expect much of a timely response.”
“By the time Stubbs was in conversation with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en on November 15, the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group [C-IRG], a special unit set up in 2017 to police protests of industrial projects in BC, had already received approval to deploy resources to conduct the raids,” wrote Matt Simons in a May 12 article published by The Narwhal, based on the information received through freedom of information. “Ward Lymburner, a former police officer and senior official with the Public Safety Ministry, confirmed authorization to John Brewer, the unit’s gold commander, that same day at 11:33 am.”
Dinï ze’ (Hereditary Chief) Na’moks also confirmed to The Narwhal that the hereditary chiefs were actively working towards meeting with the RCMP and representatives of the federal and provincial governments.
“We were talking with full intentions of doing this meeting and then they sent an invasion – their decisions had already been made,” he said in an interview.
Na’moks also explained that he, along with other chiefs, were finalizing the agenda of the proposed meeting on November 17 when the first flight of tactical unit officers arrived on the territory.
“We went in there with full trust and faith and there was no faith or trust given on the side of the RCMP, BC and Canada,” he said. “Blackmail, intimidation, psychological warfare, armed forces – which is an invasion – is all in their playbook.”
“It simply is whatever is needed to remove us from our lands, to allow this pipeline and to poison our river and kill our salmon, trample our rights and title – our human rights,” he continued, noting that the RCMP’s C-IRG group seems to act with impunity.
Coastal GasLink security workers remain present outside Gidimt’en Camp 24/7, a remote site. Members of the RCMP’s C-IRG group continue to conduct visits to the site at all hours, including in the middle of the night. People live year-round at the camp and at such places as the nearby Unist’ot’en Healing Centre.
“I wonder how people would feel if they had people like that come through their yard or their house or kitchen?,” Chief Na’moks asked, adding, “I expect nothing different from them because they believe that we don’t exist, that we don’t have our rights and title.”
“What if it was you? What if they just came through your door right now? How would you feel?”
(The Narwhal, Office of the Wet’suwet’en)
1. The Office of the Wet’suwet’en was created as a central office for the Wet’suwet’en Nation. It offers many services throughout the Nation focusing on the main areas of Lands and Resources (including Fisheries), Human and Social Services and Governance. “We are proud, progressive Wet’suwet’en,” its website reads, “dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of our culture, traditions and territories; working as one for the betterment of all.”
TML Daily, posted June 11, 2022.