The Solidarity and Social Justice Committee (SSJC) of the Teaching Support Staff Union condemns the violent arrests of the Gidimt’en land defenders and supporters, the destruction of Indigenous land known as the Cas Yikh by Coastal GasLink, and the violent actions of the RCMP. We further support the call for a peaceful evacuation of Coastal GasLink workers.
On September 22, 2021, the RCMP and Coastal GasLink destroyed the Ts’elkay Kwe Ceek archeological site, and RCMP officers were violent and torturous toward Gidimt’en land defenders and their supporters to enforce the destruction. Additionally, on November 18th, 2021 heavily armed RCMP officers were sent to Cas Yikh land to enforce a supreme court injunction and arrest Wet’suwet’en land defenders and supporters. Among the 15 people arrested were elders, legal observers, and journalists.The RCMP has also forcefully and illegally entered two dwellings at Coyote Camp without warrant. The Gidimt’en of the Wet’suwet’en are defending the Cas Yikh land by the Wedzin Kwa from drilling and destruction, which is their right.
The BC government shares responsibility for the behaviour of the RCMP and the harm done to Indigenous land and peoples through their reliance on police to forcibly and violently remove Indigenous peoples from their rightful land and by condoning the RCMP’s violent behaviour toward Indigenous peoples throughout the province. Further, the BC government is complicit by granting the continuation of the Coastal GasLink project under these circumstances, partaking in ongoing colonization.
The removal of Indigenous land defenders and their supporters by the BC government, Coastal GasLink, and the RCMP is a direct violation of Indigenous sovereignty under Canadian law and Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law). Additionally, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has also called for “the State party to immediately halt the construction and suspend all permits and approvals for the construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline in the traditional and unceded lands and territories of the Wet’suwet’en people” due to the racist and anti-Indigenous harm this pipeline causes to both Indigenous peoples and their territories. Moreover, the Gidimt’en and the larger Wet’suwet’en Nation was not consulted on the destruction of Ts’elkay Kwe Ceek, nor did they provide consent to it, which is a direct violation of the Canadian Constitution section C-35 which states, “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed”. This means that the Canadian colonial governments have no right, even under the Canadian Constitution, to supersede ownership or rights of any Wet’suwet’en lands, including the Cas Yikh and Ts’elkay Kwe Ceek. This also means that “existing Aboriginal land rights can no longer be extinguished without the consent of those Aboriginal Peoples holding interests in those lands.”
Therefore, we, the members of the SSJC, demand that the Wet’suwet’en land defenders are immediately released from their arrest and granted full access to their land. We support the calls by Amnesty International to not use lethal force against Wet’suwet’en land defenders; to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP); to allow critical foods and medicines to reach the communities and to work with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, land defenders and supporters to allow the passage of foods and medicines to stranded Coastal Gaslink workers. Moreover, we echo the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s demands that the BC government stop its reliance on the RCMP to enact their attempts at further colonization, especially since this territory belongs, rightfully, to the Wet’suwet’en Nation and over which there should be/are no ownership and occupancy disputes. The RCMP is executing injunctions issued by the BC Supreme Court, regardless of the harm and torture of land defenders. Since these injunctions evidently cause harm, we demand that the BC courts cease granting them. We stand in solidarity with the Gidimt’en of the Wet’suwet’en, and all other Indigenous Nations, in demanding that the government and industry consult with and respect the decisions reached by Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, who have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals thus far, according to ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law).
Further, the federal and BC governments are failing to fulfill Truth and Reconciliation promises and goals, while simultaneously promoting itself as achieving these promises and goals in public-facing media (e.g., social media). The Canadian government passed legislation to implement the UNDRIP as a “building block in fully recognizing, respecting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of Indigenous peoples”. The BC government passed the UNDRIP into law in November 2019, establishing the UN Declaration as BC’s framework for reconciliation, as called for by the TRC’s Calls to Action. If any true reconciliation is to be achieved, all levels of government must honour the authority of Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. Reconciliation is the process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas, or situations agree, and agreement was not achieved with the Cas Yikh people. Therefore, we also demand that the federal and BC government work toward fulfilling these promises and goals by respecting the authority of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and Indigenous rights and sovereignty, in general.
The Solidarity and Social Justice Committee of the Teaching and Support Staff Union
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby Campus
Located on unceded territory belonging to the Coast Salish Nations, specifically the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), and q̓icə̓y̓ (Katzie) Nations on Lhuḵw’lhuḵw’áyten, derived from the Skwxwu7mesh word for arbutus, lhulhuḵw’ay, which comes from lhuḵw’ (peel), and means “always peeling tree” (Coast Salish Place Names) on which SFU Burnaby campus is located. We recognize that the occupation of these lands by settlers and colonial governments serves as a foundation for the harm and cultural destruction of Indigenous People(s) that have persisted since first contact.