RCMP Militarized Assault on Unarmed Land Defenders
While the attention of the people of BC was focussed on coping with the crises caused by flooding, evacuations and road closures, the RCMP carried out two raids on Wet’suwet’en land defenders on their territory.
The raids of November 18 and 19 were carried out by members of the RCMP’s Community-Industry Response Group, created in 2017 in BC “to provide strategic oversight addressing energy industry incidents and related public order, national security and crime issues.”
By November 19 there had been 32 arrests, 15 on November 18 at Gidimt’en Camp and 17 on November 19 at Coyote Camp. Those arrested included Gidimt’en spokesperson Sleydo’, the daughter of one of the Hereditary Chiefs, elders, supporters, three journalists and a legal observer. Since then solidarity actions have been taking place across the country.
Of those arrested, 22 people appeared at BC Supreme Court in Prince George on November 22. In a November 22 update prior to their court appearance, the Gidimt’en Checkpoint informed that:
“Those arrested are all facing charges of civil contempt for breaching the terms of a BC Supreme Court injunction granted to Coastal GasLink (CGL). CGL is seeking a number of conditions of release, including denying many arrestees access to a vast area of Wet’suwet’en territories. The proposed ‘exclusion zone’ is the whole Morice West Forest Service Road or any other areas accessed by the Morice Forest Service Road. Wet’suwet’en people (as determined by CGL) may be exempt from the exclusion zone for ‘cultural activities’ (as defined by the RCMP), while being subjected to ‘culture-free zones’ around CGL work sites.
“CGL is also asking Sleydo’ to provide documentation to ‘prove’ she is Wet’suwet’en, and is seeking conditions that would bar her from returning to her home on Wet’suwet’en Yintah where her, her husband Cody Merriman (Haida Nation, who was also arrested), and her three children live. CGL is also challenging Chief Woos’s daughter Jocelyn Alec’s status as a Wet’suwet’en person because she has Indian Act status with her mother’s First Nation. The Indian Act is patriarchal and does not determine identity or belonging to a community.
“According to Jen Wickham, media coordinator of Gidimt’en Checkpoint: ‘Coastal GasLink’s proposed conditions of release are punitive, unreasonable and, in targeting Sleydo’ and Jocelyn, completely racist and sexist. Allowing a private corporation to determine two Indigenous womens’ identities and allowing this corporation to deny our inherent rights to be Wet’suwet’en on our territory is a very dangerous precedent. This is the colonial gendered violence that is the root of the crisis of MMIWG2S. Even though Coastal GasLink is trying to intimidate us through the colonial court system, we are Wet’suwet’en Strong. Under the governance of our Hereditary Chiefs, there will be no pipeline on our Yintah.”
Cody Merriman of the Haida Nation agreed to conditions and was released November 22, solely so he could return to Wet’suwet’en territory to look after his and Sleydo’s children. Under Wet’suwet’en law, he is permitted access to his spouse’s territory to fulfill these duties.
The Gidimt’en Checkpoint released the following update after the first day in court:
“After a long day in court, 10 Land Defenders and supporters arrested on Gidimt’en territory, including Sleydo’ and Jocelyn, remain in custody in so-called Prince George.
“Court has been adjourned and will resume at 9 am tomorrow [November 23].
“Cody Merriman was released with conditions to reappear in court on February 14, and to not return to the RCMP/CGL ‘exclusion area’ except to travel through it to his residence. Faced with this colonial conditional release, the decision was made to sign in order to take care of his and Sleydo’s young children — and not in recognition of any wrong doing.
“Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano, members of the media, and seven other supporters were granted release under conditions to obey the injunction and reappear in court on February 14.”
Renewal Update calls on everyone to keep informed, join in actions when possible and write to your MPs opposing the use of law under phony pretexts. It brings Canada no honour whatsoever, no matter how you look at it.