One year has passed since the RCMP raided Wet’suwet’en checkpoints on their territory. Those raids were meant to facilitate the construction of TC Energy Corporation’s Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline. However, they also ignited coast-to-coast blockades and protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation. While those protests created national debate about the future of the pipeline and Indigenous-settler relations in early 2020, they quickly disappeared as COVID-19 became a public health crisis. Yet, with little media coverage since the pandemic, the CGL pipeline project is now 1/3 complete.
As organizations, associations, and individuals based in or with past connections to Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, we stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation in their defense of territorial sovereignty, against the destructive encroachment by CGL. As individuals and groups with existing or past ties to McGill University, we write this letter to denounce the institution’s links to the CGL pipeline on the unceded territory of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
Though we are physically far from Wet’suwet’en territory, we are outraged that institutions in Montreal are complicit in making the CGL pipeline possible. Some of these connections were made more obvious during the creative actions that residents in the Greater Montreal area took in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation in January and February of 2020. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wet’suwet’en territory and the Coastal GasLink pipeline are no longer in the headlines, but the project continues apace. So it is shocking to know that institutions based in Montreal provide financial and material support to the CGL Pipeline. For example, McGill University holds an investment of $4,770,450 in TC Energy Corp as part of its endowment portfolio. The risks for the Wet’suwet’en Nation associated with the ongoing construction of the pipeline give urgency for institutions like McGill to divest from TC Energy Corporation.
The Canadian and BC governments and CGL are using this moment of reduced mobility of land defenders due to COVID-19 public health regulations to go ahead with the construction of pipelines. The continued construction of the CGL pipeline despite the declaration of a public health emergency connected to COVID-19 has placed citizens of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in increased vulnerability as construction workers from outside the community enter the territory. Earlier during the pandemic, the public health guidelines of the BC government which limited gatherings of 50 people did not apply to construction sites as they were deemed as “essential services.” However, the labelling of pipeline construction sites as an essential service is a farce. The issue is made more urgent with a number of cases reported this past November and December in the pipeline construction camps in Wet’suwet’en territory. In an open letter, 22 female chiefs from Wet’suwet’en have voiced their concerns about the danger that these construction camps pose in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian government continues to militarize Wet’suwet’en territory. Heavily armed RCMP officers remain present on Wet’suwet’en territory. We strongly condemn the Canadian government’s criminalization of peaceful protest.
The disregard of the self-determination of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and their governing body of Hereditary Chiefs has demonstrated the emptiness of the Canadian government’s “reconciliation” discourse. Indigenous peoples are demanding nothing short of decolonization. A first step towards that is to respect the decision of the Hereditary Chiefs of Wet’suwet’en Nation to refuse the construction of the CGL pipeline on their territory. Divesting from oil and gas projects is also a means to fulfill the Liberal government’s commitments towards addressing climate change. An authentic solution to climate change would respect the self-determination of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
We stand with the demands of the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation that call upon the ceasing of construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the immediate withdrawal of the RCMP and associated security and police forces from Wet’suwet’en territory, and that Wet’suwet’en self-determination is honored by respecting their decisions, laws, and governance structures. We add to these demands a call for divestment from TC Energy Corp by institutions like McGill University.
Letter drafted by
Stefan Christoff, radio host at CKUT 90.3fm, McGill University
Kasim Tirmizey, B.Eng ‘03, Part-Time Faculty, McGill University
In consultation with
Marlene Hale, Wet’suwet’en climate justice activist.
McGill Nurses for Planetary Health, signed co-chair Naomi Pastrana
McGill Pan-Asian Collective
Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill – SPHR McGill
McGill World Islamic and Middle East Studies Students’ Association
The Black Students’ Network of McGill University
Climate Justice Montréal
The McGill Arab Student Network
CKUT Radio, 90.3fm
Le Ministère de la nouvelle normalité – Groupe théâtrale d’action climatique
The Indigenous Law Association / Association de Droit Autochtone (ILADA)
Students’ Society of McGill University Executive Committee
Climate Justice Action McGill
Protesters Legal Information Clinic / McGill Corporate Accountability Project
Extinction Rebellion Justice Tiohtià:ke / Montreal
Women of Diverse Origins / Femmes de Diverses Origines
The Quebec Public Interest Research Group at McGill (QPIRG McGill)
McGill Students for a Free Tibet
McGill Stands With Hong Kong
Independent Jewish Voices Canada / Voix Juives Indépendantes
Black Rose Books
South Asian Women’s Community Centre
Indigenous Student Alliance at McGill University
Graduate Architecture Students’ Association at McGill University
SOS Territoire (GRIP UQAM)
Du Pain Et Des Enjeux / Bread & Struggles
Architecture Students’ Association at McGill University
For a list of individual signatories and to read the full French version of this letter, click here.