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ALARM: Climate Strike in Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

Written by Sriranjini Raman

The Climate Strike happened on 17th January in front of THE MUSEUM in downtown Kitchener.

The following text is taken from the Fridays for Future KW Facebook event page :

“The RCMP has set up an “exclusion zone” at the entrance to Wet’suwet’en territory and are blocking media, the Wet’suwet’en people, and food from getting in. THIS IS A VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND WET’SUWET’EN LAW!

BC has passed UNDRIP, which guarantees rights and protection to the Wet’suwet’en people. The last time the RCMP set up an exclusion zone, the RCMP was given leave to use violence against unarmed people. This is horrific a betrayal.

We strike on Friday, not against pipelines, but against Canada’s violent and ongoing colonization of Turtle Island’s first peoples. 

Join us for a strike for climate justice at the unveiling of THEMUSEUM’s ALARM exhibition. We strike in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people against ongoing colonialism, in Canada and across the world. Indigenous sovereignty is climate action.

We are going into a climate-changed future together and climate justice will define what that future will look like.”

THE WET’SUWET’EN AND TC ENERGY: INDIGENOUS LAND RIGHTS VS. THE FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Written by Michelle Angkasa

The Protest 

On January 17, a group of protestors from the Fridays for Future movement gathered at THEMUSEUM to draw attention to the conflict between the Wet’suwet’en Nation and the RCMP in northern British Columbia. 

More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/3361516240589620/

The Pipeline

The Coastal Gaslink pipeline project, spearheaded by TransCanada (TC) Energy, is currently being built to connect Dawson Creek to its natural gas operations plant in Kitimat, B.C. The pipeline would deliver natural gas over 670 km to be converted to a liquid form for exportation to Asian markets. Community consultations and environmental assessments for the pipeline began in 2012, and construction began in October of 2018. 

More info: https://www.coastalgaslink.com/about/

The Wet’suwet’en 

At the beginning of 2019, members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation erected blockades to obstruct the pipeline’s path through their land, resulting in a tense, militarized standoff with the RCMP. Within the nation, five elected band councils support the project, but opposition from hereditary chiefs remains strong. The division is indicative of a larger debate on who holds authority in First Nations communities, especially when it comes to contentious issues such as the approval of a pipeline. Elected band councils deal primarily with economic developments within the band’s jurisdiction, while hereditary chiefs, who hold titles that have been passed down through families, focus on protecting the nation’s traditions and culture.

More info: http://unistoten.camp/supportertoolkit2020/

https://bc.ctvnews.ca/elected-vs-hereditary-chiefs-what-s-the-difference-in-indigenous-communities-1.4247466

The Current Situation 

Last year, members of the Gidimt’en clan had set up a blockade along the pipeline route, blocking road access to TC employees. In January of 2019, the RCMP raided the blockade and arrested fourteen people. According to VICE, “During… (the) raid, police deployed tactical officers armed with assault and sniper rifles, at one point brandishing a chainsaw. The officers forced their way over barbed wire and a reinforced gate, amid the screams of land defenders, some of whom had chained themselves to the gate itself. Photos and videos shared on social media showed police in army green uniforms climbing over the barricade. Organizers raised their arms to hold them back. Officers pushed people to the snowy ground and arrested them. Several officers on the scene carried guns.”  

On January 13, 2020, the RCMP set up a checkpoint that restricts the vital flow of food and clothing supplies into the community, to enforce an extension of a B.C. Supreme Court injunction to stop the Wet’suwet’en blockade. The move has drawn intense criticism from the public. Wet’suwet’en protestors and supporters are currently constructing a second watch camp to monitor police movements and gather with hereditary chiefs. As of now, both parties are locked in an intense stalemate, with no indication of how or when the conflict will be resolved. 

More info:

https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/3k993b/police-enforce-injunction-at-indigenous-checkpoint-in-northern-bc

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-wetsuweten-coastal-gaslink-pipeline-rcmp-explainer/

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/01/15/news/complaints-filed-against-rcmp-blocking-wetsuweten-access

Now What?

The action has sparked many demonstrations across the country: from high school students from Vancouver to members of the Our Time movement, youth led groups have taken to the streets this month.  

Despite the protests and public outcry, both Prime Minister Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan assert that the $40 billion pipeline project will still be built. 

The CBC writes that “The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and B.C.’s independent Human Rights Commission say the province and Canada must halt construction until free, prior and informed consent is obtained from all Indigenous peoples affected by the projects. Amnesty International also flagged the project warning against overriding the authority of Indigenous peoples to make their own decisions about the use of their traditional lands.” 

More info: 

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-coastal-gaslink-pipeline-will-be-built-bc-premier-john-horgan/

Writer’s Footnote

This conflict is one of the many examples of how the intersection of climate justice, Indigenous land rights, and youth climate change movements can further complicate difficult issues. Navigating the various perspectives of the many stakeholders involved requires historical context as well as compassion. When starting a conversation about Canada’s use of fossil fuels, violations of UNDRIP (the Canadian-ratified UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), or climate racism and social justice, it is imperative to be informed. Read stories from both sides of the conflict, educate yourself, and don’t be afraid to speak up when people’s rights are being violated. 

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