Statement of Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en

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Citizens for Public Justice stands in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation hereditary chiefs and land defenders, who are being removed from their sovereign territory by the RCMP and the government of Canada.

We stand with the Wet’suwet’en, filled with gratitude for the protection, care, and honour they give to the land and water. We urge the Canadian government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, government ministers and police forces to stop the expansion of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, an extractive industrial project that would span over 400 miles and destroy Indigenous land, water, air and culture.

Our Executive Director, Willard Metzger, has signed on to the church leaders’ statement issued on February 6, with the leadership of Toronto Urban Native Ministry:


“Peace be with you,

In solidarity with our Wet’suwet’en relatives, we call upon the government of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to immediately cease their occupation, arrests, and trespassing on Wet’suwet’en sovereign territory.

In a public statement made yesterday, the RCMP have asserted that they will arrest any persons who will not leave their camps on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. Wet’suwet’en law precedes and supersedes Canadian law on Wet’suwet’en land. The militarized forced removal of Wet’suwet’en from their own territory, for the economic benefit of fracked natural gas Coastal GasLink’s 670km pipeline is consistent with the colonial practices of genocide. These unlawful occupations and tactics violate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Wet’suwet’en Clan Chiefs hold sole title to their unceded territory and unanimously do not support the construction of the pipeline. The pipeline project would mar the landscape, cutting down trees, harming migration patterns of animals, and putting the entire watershed at risk of a pipeline leak and contamination. Furthermore, the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people found that there is a direct connection between resource extraction projects and increased violence against and within Indigenous communities. The migration of settler labourers to pipeline projects sites has been connected to increased sexual harassment, murder, rape, sexual assault, the influx of drugs and alcohol, increased conflict and policing, and the undermining of Indigenous self-determination in their communities.

We are deeply concerned about the militarized arrests, pressure and trespassing presence of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Wet’suwet’en sovereign territory. We are alarmed by the RCMP’s establishment of an “Exclusion Zone”- which infringes on freedom of movement of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, with the exclusion of media from witnessing and documentation, and bars clan members from accessing their own lands. These acts of intimidation, occupation, and restriction are harmful and reverses us back to the pass system era, which treats Indigenous peoples like prisoners on their own territory.

The RCMP does not hold the jurisdiction or right to arrest sovereign Wet’suwet’en peoples on their own unceded Nation and territory. The practice of forced relocation, arrest, detention, and criminalization of Wet’suwet’en, Indigenous peoples, and their allies on Wet’suwet’en land is an egregious and shameful violation of international law. We call upon the RCMP and Canadian government to respectfully honour Wet’suwet’en Clan law, whereby ceasing their surveillance, occupation, and militarized violence on Indigenous land.

The continual prioritizing of the interests of private sector and resource extraction over the rights of Indigenous Nations, laws, treaties, lands, and waters, condemns our collective wellbeing and future. We call upon the RCMP and government of Canada to immediately halt all violations and assaults on Indigenous water and land defenders. We stand with the Wet’suwet’en and their allies who have made significant sacrifices on the front lines of this violation on their territory. We honour and respect their commitment to defending the wellbeing of the waters, lands, creatures, people, and sovereignty of Wet’suwet’en.”

Signatories.

Sign-on to show your solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

Photo credit: Flickr/Jason Hargrove

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2 thoughts on “Statement of Solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en”

  1. Thank you for speaking to this issue; however, the statement is disappointingly oversimplified. Neither the hereditary chiefs nor the elected ones, nor the Wet’suwet’en nation are in solidarity on the complex question of whether or not to have traditional territory made available for the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Daren George, a wing chief of the Wet’suwet’en nation, and a pastor with Kyah Fellowship in nearby Witset, has urged me and other local pastors not to take a side on the question, but rather encourage ongoing dialogue, given deep divisions in the nation which are also rooted in grief due to the loss of many members recently by death, and made more difficult by the inability to meet for memorial and succession feasts. Do rework the statement to reflect greater sensitivity to the deep divisions that currently exist, and consult with Wet’suwet’en leaders and believers tied closely to the crisis.

    Respectfully,
    Kenneth M. Vander Horst
    pastor
    Smithers Christian Reformed Church

    Reply
  2. Thank you for taking the time to reach out and express your concerns.

    CPJ seeks to work in collaboration with other advocacy efforts as much as possible; as such we do not always have direct control over the exact messaging of shared communication. Still, we understand that tremendous care that is required in considering invitations for support.

    While CPJ does not have focused work on Indigenous rights, it does intersect with our climate justice and anti-poverty advocacy work. I felt that CPJ should sign onto the church leaders’ statement issued on February 6, as an expression of solidarity with coalition partners and some Indigenous communities.

    Seeking justice can be a complex matter. Especially when not everyone agrees in what defines justice in a given situation. The context of the Wet’suwet’en protest revealed that Indigenous communities are not of one mind. We appreciate your emphasis on sensitivity and dialogue.

    This difference in interpretation of who makes decisions is a collision of Indigenous and colonial law, and it is a concern that needs to be addressed. We want to make sure that this is not being used by governments and the pipeline company as a wedge to push this project through. CPJ is calling for genuine dialogue honouring the sacredness of the land and Indigenous people, in compliance with Article 27 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which calls for respect of Indigenous peoples’ decision-making according to their laws and traditions.

    Thanks again for expressing your concerns. I applaud your continued search for how to best advocate for a just solution.

    Reply

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