On January 7, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) crossed the Gitdimt’en* checkpoint on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. This checkpoint was established to reinforce an existing checkpoint at the entry of the Unistot’en Camp and to stop Coastal GasLink employees from entering the premises. Wet’suwet’en Nation members view the RCMP’s breach of the checkpoint as trespassing. The presence of the militarized police force at the Gitdimt’en checkpoint was described as a use of “excessive and brutal force.”
In November 2018, Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada, filed an injunction with the British Columbia Supreme Court against the Unistot’en Camp for prohibiting entry to Coastal GasLink employees. In December, the Court sided with Coastal GasLink, ordering for the removal of the checkpoint. Instead, the Gitdimt’en Clan established another barricade ahead of the existing checkpoint, in solidarity with the Unistot’en Camp. As a response, the RCMP, who claim to be neutral in the conflict, forcibly entered the Camp.
Fourteen people were arrested on January 7, including the spokesperson for the Gitdimt’en Clan, Molly Wickham. Everyone arrested was released within two days. On January 9, the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, who oppose the pipeline, came to an agreement with the RCMP, which stipulates that Coastal GasLink can temporarily work within the Unistot’en Camp. However, in a Facebook post, the Hereditary Chiefs made it clear that this agreement was aimed at limiting potential violence. They insist that they have by no means consented to the construction of a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory. Although direct confrontation between the RCMP and the Wet’suwet’en land defenders has ceased, Wet’suwet’en Nation members have declared: “this is not over.”
The Daily Editorial Board stands with the Wet’suwet’en and opposes the Coastal GasLink pipeline. If built, the pipeline would pose extreme environmental consequences to the area it passes through. According to the Unistot’en Camp website, dozens of the chemicals used for fracking are known to be toxic to both humans and the environment. People in favour of the pipeline argue that it would create jobs, but less than 35 of those jobs would be permanent and nearly all of the profits would go to Coastal GasLink. As the Unistot’en Camp website states, “there are no jobs on a dead planet.”
More importantly, this confrontation is about Indigenous rights and self-determination. The Daily recognizes the sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and the authority of the Hereditary Chiefs in regards to their traditional territory. The militarized presence of the RCMP on January 7 shows that the state considers the land to be theirs and is ready to use force to suppress meaningful opposition to its capitalist aims. Pipelines, and thus corporate interests, are being put before Indigenous rights.
Last week’s events on Wet’suwet’en territory have made it clear that colonization is ongoing and that discussions of reconciliation are hollow. We must stand in solidarity with Indigenous people resisting colonial occupation, and help in the ways we can. Although the conflict has de-escalated, the Wet’suwet’en land defenders still need support. To donate, visit unistoten.camp/support-us/donate. You can also join the camp, or host an event in solidarity, both of which are described in more detail on the website. Staying informed and attending demonstrations are also ways to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en. McGill’s Indigenous Student Alliance will have a demonstration at the Y-intersection at 2pm on Monday, January 14.
*The Gitdimt’en Clan and Unistot’en House are both part of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. For more information, read our news piece.
**This editorial was written on January 11. There may have been developments since.