“Reconciliation is dead”: Wet’suwet’en peoples respond to Canadian military backing of pipelines

Studying for Two Figures Restraining a Third by artist Kent Monkman

As a wave of solidarity actions crossed Canada, James O Neill, has written this piece. James was a long term resident of Sinixt territory, British Columbia who recently returned to Ireland while remaining in contact with pipeline struggles

“A huge militarised police raid on an Indigenous community in northern British Columbia has triggered a wave of protest and blockades across Canada, and laid bare the unresolved relationship between Canada and Indigenous Nations. The Unist’ot’en camp was established in 2009 to stand in defence of land that was slated for several major new pipelines designed to carry fracked gas from the northern prairies to the rugged BC coast. The pipeline traverses Wet’suwet’en Territory, which like most of BC is unceded, meaning that the even the federal government concedes it doesn’t have the title deeds.

The landmark Delgamuukw supreme court decision in 1997 established that projects on unceded land should have consent from First Nations, which was reinforced in the Tsilhqot’in decision in 2014. This consent has been repeatedly denied by the Wet’suwet’en on environmental and ethical grounds. The pipeline has been rejected by large numbers of non-native BC residents and drawn global criticism for its impact on greenhouse gases, but despite all this opposition the project is being pushed ahead.

The term genocide was used to describe the situation in Canada in an official national inquiry published in 2019 into the ongoing scandal of missing and murdered indigenous women, which has seen thousands of Indigenous women murdered or go missing in recent decades

The raid on the camp reproduced a long and inglorious theme from Canada’s history not often talked about outside its borders, or indeed within its borders – that of government violence against First Nations people and the forced imposition of capitalist projects on native land. The Canadian economy is addicted to oil and gas. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal federal government and the left-leaning NDP provincial government are in control of the project. The economic power of the fossil fuel industry combined with the clout of the police is being used to continue the ongoing colonial project that is the state of Canada. 

Despite Trudeau’s tearful apologies for the historical treatment of indigenous people and his talk of reconciliation between the state and its aboriginal inhabitants, he and his colleagues continue to enforce what many consider to be ongoing genocidal treatment at the hands of the Canadian state.

The term genocide was used to describe the situation in Canada in an official national inquiry published in 2019 into the ongoing scandal of missing and murdered indigenous women, which has seen thousands of Indigenous women murdered or go missing in recent decades. Highway 16 which runs through Wet’suwet’en territory is nicknamed the Highway of Tears for the number of deaths and disappearances that have occurred along its route. Projects such as the Coastal Gas Link pipeline bring with them large temporary camps of workers known as “man camps”, and where they go, sexualised violence follows. Police often seem uninterested in investigating such crimes. 

One of the most striking images of the raid was the tearing down of red dresses placed at the Un’istot’en camp in remembrance of the victims of such violence. Pipeline workers pulled them down while burly white SWAT team members arrested Indigenous women attempting to defend their traditional territory or yintah.    

The raid on the long-established camp has provoked a determined response across Canada led by Native youth tired of waiting for progress that never comes. Parliament buildings, ports and rail lines have been hit by blockades.The Canadian state refuses to treat First Nations as equals and ignores the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous People. Reconciliation is dead.”

On Wed 4th March Comhlámh will host Firstweds – in conversation with Wet’suwet’en Indigenous youth

Wed 4th March, 7 pm Teachers Club, Parnell Square, Dublin

We will premiere a screening of “Invasion” new film about the Unist’ot’en Camp, Gidimt’en checkpoint and the larger Wet’suwet’en Nation standing up to the Canadian government and corporations who continue colonial violence against Indigenous people.

Following this short 20 mins film we will hear directly about the wave of responses to recent Royal Mounted Canadian Police actions in the Wet’suwet’en and the long history of violence, environmental destruction, and disregard for human rights surrounding the extraction industry in the region.

We are delighted to be continue our collaboration with Dr. Eilish Dillon and her colleagues at the Dept of International Development, Maynooth University on this season of #FirstWeds.

#FirstWeds will be livestreamed on Facebook.

Wheelchair and lift access to the meeting room is available on the evening, via the Granby Lane entrance. Contact Mark on 087 67 20303 by 18:30 to facilitate access.

Comhlámh acknowledges the support of Concern Worldwide in hosting the #FirstWeds

Photo Credit for image : Alena Ebeling-Schuld

Caption “Solidarity rally in #yyj today for the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Incredible Indigenous Youth are on day 5 of a powerful occupation of the BC Legislature. #wetsuwentenstrong#wetsuwetensolidarity

Source https://twitter.com/AlenaESPhoto/status/1227087930805477376