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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 15, 2022
Contact: Jennifer Wickham, Gidimt’en Checkpoint Media Coordinator, (250) 917-8392,
RCMP Pepper Spray Three Land Defenders in a Show of Excessive Force
Unceded Wet’suwet’en Yintah (Smithers – BC) – On Friday August 12 around 4pm, land defenders were followed and harassed by police while enroute to their private residence on Gidimt’en yintah. The police proceeded to use excessive force by arresting 2 land defenders and pepper spraying each arrestee and one other. One of the victims of this violent assault had already been placed in hand cuffs behind their back before being pepper sprayed. This police escalation happened outside the residence of one of the victims who is a young Indigenous Land Defender, and far from any Coastal GasLink worksite. This is a blatant example of the targeted harassment that the RCMP and the CIRG has inflicted on the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters.
On July 13, 2022, the Gidimt’en Checkpoint launched a civil suit against the RCMP, CIRG, the Minister of Justice for BC, Coastal Gaslink Pipeline and private security contractor Forsythe for hundreds of instances of trespass, harassment, and intimidation tactics. The Department of Justice is asking for more time to respond, but while they stall, the RCMP are now escalating their violence against unarmed land defenders.
“Pepper spray has been misused by CIRG against crowds of land defenders at places like Fairy Creek; there is no reason why it is needed against three unarmed people driving to a private residence. This is a big escalation in police intimidation tactics against Wet’suwet’en land and water protectors,” says Sleydo’.
“This police attack targeting Indigenous people who live on the Wet’suwet’en yintah comes as people are preparing for a big cultural gathering with elders and children on the territory in August, and is clearly meant to intimidate and prevent Indigenous people from conducting our ceremonies on the land. We remain part of the Wedzin Kwa, the sacred river, that we are protecting from colonial invaders. This won’t deter us from doing what is right, upholding our own laws that have been in place for thousands of years, protecting our land and standing up for future generations.”
The Coastal GasLink project violates Wet’suwet’en rights and title, and lacks consent of Wet’suwet’en Hereditary chiefs, who have been resisting the project for a decade.
The good life—what Anishinaabe know as mino bimaadiziiwin—are the practices and traditions that keep them connected with the land and each other in healthy, sustainable, and traditional ways.
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This story is published as part of the Global Indigenous Affairs Desk, an Indigenous-led collaboration between Grist, Indian Country Today, and High Country News. Joseph Lee and Carina Dominguez Indigenous communities around the world face an alarming quartet: state violence, human rights abuses, harmful conservation practices, and extractive industries.
Hundreds of water protectors are currently facing criminal charges in Minnesota for standing in defense of the water, the climate, and the treaty rights of the Anishinaabeg people. These individuals put their bodies on the line to stop Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, a massive tar sands project that threatens the state’s lakes, rivers, aquifers and wild rice beds.
“Wet’suwet’en is an international frontline to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples and to prevent climate change,” says Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo’ amid her clan’s fight against Coastal GasLink’s pipeline.
Plans to flush out salt caverns for gas storage hit a wall of Mi’kmaq grandmothers Cheryl Maloney’s eyes glossed over with tears as she stood near the bank of the Stewiacke River in the middle of Nova Scotia. The news was finally sinking in.
Freda Huson has been praying. The Wet’suwet’en matriarch and wing chief of the Unist’ot’en Dark House Clan left her home on the Witset First Nation more than a decade ago to return to her yintah, the land of her ancestors, in order to protect it from encroaching industry.
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Jerry cans of gas in an overflowing pool of water. Oil barrels lying on the ground. A dumpster filled to the brim, its lid propped open and bags of garbage left out in bear country. Murky water flowing into wetlands, lakes, streams and rivers.
The project would have featured a natural gas pipeline crossing 229 miles in four southwestern Oregon counties to the Jordan Cove liquefaction plant in Coos Bay. From there, the gas would have been loaded onto ships for export to Asian markets.
Critics warn that carbon markets incentivize countries and corporations to offset – rather than cut – emissions responsible for global heating by investing in so-called green energy projects like biofuel monocrops and hydroelectric dams, which are linked to environmental destruction, forced displacement, arbitrary arrests and even murder.
In addition, such carbon credit schemes often rely on sequestering land, forests and rivers relied on by indigenous and local communities for food, water, medicine and spiritual traditions, and there is little evidence to suggest they lead to a genuine drop in emissions.
Indigenous communities facing an upsurge in land grabs, water shortages and human rights violations as a result of the Cop26 deal have accused world leaders of sacrificing them in order to postpone meaningful climate action and shield corporate profits.
For over 12 months, activists have set up blockades to prevent the logging of old growth forests in the Fairy Creek watershed on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. More than 1,100 people have been arrested as part of the largest act of civil disobedience in recent Canadian history.
A provincial court in Canada has refused to extend an injunction against protesters demonstrating against old-growth logging, ruling that police conduct has been so troubling that to extend the order would place the court’s own reputation at risk.
The bitter fight over the future of Vancouver Island’s diminishing ancient forests – in which activists used guerrilla methods of resistance such as locking their bodies to the logging road and police responded by beating, dragging and pepper-spraying demonstrators – has surpassed the previous record of arrests set in the 1990s at the anti-logging protests dubbed the “War in the Woods”.
A string of protests against old-growth logging in western Canada have become the biggest act of civil disobedience in the country’s history, with the arrest of least 866 people since April.
The recent IPCC report paints a grim future for all life on this planet if we don’t take aggressive action now. Expanding tar sands extraction and increasing the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline is nothing less than climate suicide.
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My people are descended from the sea. That is the meaning of our name: Tsleil-Waututh, “people of the inlet.” Our creation story tells us that we were created from the sediment in the Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, Canada. The inlet is our grandmother, our oldest relative.
“For me it’s simple,” he said. “We have a right for this fishery and all we want them to do is to respect that and to let us govern our own fishery and to actually exercise that right.” The Sipekne’katik First Nation argues that a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirming its members’ treaty right to fish allows them to harvest lobster year-round to earn a “moderate livelihood.”
Days after he was arrested by federal Fisheries Department officers, Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack said Friday his band members will continue to fish in St. Marys Bay whether Ottawa likes it or not.