According to the CBC, 6 people were arrested by the RCMP on Feb 06, 2020 pursuant to an injunction against those blocking construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C. Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary Chief Na’Moks is reported to have said, “They came in with armed forces to remove peaceful people that are doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. We’re protecting the land, the air, the water. Our rights and title, our authority as hereditary chiefs. And we’re exercising our jurisdiction … We’ve never ceded nor surrendered our lands. We’ve never signed a treaty. We are the law of the land, we are free people and I will go to my territories.”
The injunction which was issued by the BC Supreme Court, and the consequent arrests, seem to be at odds with Bill 41 of the BC legislature which embraces the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and which, as summarized by West Coast Environmental Law, “requires the government to prepare an implementation and action plan in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous people” Most significantly, this act also seems to recognize the authority of Indigenous governing bodies, like the hereditary chiefs that Chief Na’Moks refers to above, which stand outside the ambit of the Indian Act.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, is reported to have said “It’s an absolute outrage and deeply frustrating that the RCMP is acting in the capacity of a goon squad on behalf of business and industry”. This is where Malaysia’s premier Crown corporation PETRONAS is implicated as one of the corporations with a significant interest in seeing the pipeline implemented, with investments at both ends of it (upstream and down.)
According to a media advisory issued on January 14, 2020, a legal complaint has been filed by the BC Civil Liberties Association. with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, against the RCMP Exclusion Zone established at the 27km mark on the Morrice Forest Service Road West in the Wet’suwet’en territories. This exclusion zone has been set up in the context of an escalation of the conflict around the passage Coastal Gas Link (CGL) pipeline . As I have noted before Malaysia’s PETRONAS’ investment in Kitimat is totally dependant on this CGL pipeline which will transport natural gas from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields.
Harsha Walia, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association has said, “We are extremely concerned about the use of exclusion zones prohibiting Wet’suwet’en people, the public, and media from accessing Wet’suwet’en territories. The Wet’suwet’en assert continuous jurisdiction and unextinguished rights and land title, and the Charter protects liberty, mobility, freedom of the press, and the right not to be arbitrarily detained. This exclusion zone constitutes a serious violation of both the Indigenous rights and Charter-protected rights of Wet’suwet’en people and their family members,”
Further, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, “We expect the provincial government and BC RCMP to honour the Supreme Court of Canada’s precedent-setting Delgamuukw/Gisday’way case and the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples in all their decisions and actions. For Wet’suwet’en people to be denied access to their own territories as a result of a police exclusion zone smacks of outright racism and the colonial-era pass system sanctioned by the so-called rule of law, which our people survived for far too long.”
On 13, 2020, it was reported on the UNIST’OT’EN website that, in what would be an escalation of the conflict over CGL pipeline, the RCMP (Police) have set up an “exclusion zone” at 27km and are blocking media, Wet’suwet’en people, and food from getting up to their territory. The report claims that this is a violation of the Wet’suwet’en’s human rights, of Wet’suwet’en law, and of their constitutionally protected rights as Indigenous people. The report also highlights the fact that the ‘last time RCMP set up an ‘exclusion zone,’ they had authorized lethal force against unarmed people.”
I am observing these developments as a Malaysian resident of British Columbia and I cant help thinking of our own Malaysian indignation at the Indian state’s mistreatment of Kashmiris with curfews and media black outs. Malaysians must be made aware that our premier Crown Corporation stands to benefit from these apparently analogous acts of the Canadian state. As I have noted before Malaysia’s PETRONAS’ investment in Kitimat is totally dependant on this CGL pipeline which will transport natural gas from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields. So once again, the interests of the exemplary Malaysian bumiputera (indigenous) led enterprise is contrary to the those of a group of indigenous people from British Columbia.
According to a post on the UNIST’OT’EN website Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have submitted a formal request to the United Nations to monitor RCMP (police), government and Coastal GasLink (CGL) actions on their traditional, unceded territory. This request follows the directive from the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination (CERD) requiring Canada to halt the pipeline project and withdraw RCMP from our territory in order to avoid further violations of Wet’suwet’en, constitutional, and international law. This submission reveals the Chiefs’ perception of the imminent threat posed by the RCMP and security forces currently surrounding Wet’suwet’en villages and lands.
As I have noted before Malaysia’s PETRONAS crown corporation holds a 25% stake in LNG Canada’s Kitimat development which is totally dependant on this CGLpipeline. This pipeline is intended to transport natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat and much of this gas will come from PETRONAS’ own North Montney fields. As noted in the Globe and Mail, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination says that it is imperative that all affected First Nations give free, prior and informed consent before the pipeline proceeds. So once again, the interests of the exemplary Malaysian bumiputra (indigenous) led enterprise is contrary to the those of a group of indigenous people from British Columbia.
Today is Canada’s 150th birthday! And the celebrations are being carried out on a grand scale. I do not object but I can not participate in the symbols of nation unreflectively. First peoples have set up camp on parliament hill. They have been allowed to do so after initial resistance from the RCMP and our dashing and generous PM has gracefully and photogenically paid his respects. What can I say… I am a recent immigrant living on unceded territory but power, if not justice, is on my side. Will I give up what is now mine in the the name of what is just … probably not without a struggle. But then it is as much a struggle, spiritually speaking, to occupy the place that my family and I have taken under the auspices of the Canadian state. The history is palpable all around us … in place markers, and in derelict lives as well as in proud ones. I feel it, and although I join in the celebrations, I do not do so without recognizing the genocidal legacy into which I am assimilating .
An enduring symbol of Canada is the uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Mounties who wear it are loved and respected by the mainstream of Canadian life but to those on the margins of this order, their symbol bears a different meaning. The RCMP are the front line in hegemonic Canada’s ongoing repression of both the abject dereliction and the proud resistance of Indigenous peoples. There are however a handful of native RCMP officers who operate at the very front of this frontline. It seems to me that they might be the bearers of the impossible burden of the paradox and the pain of being both native and Canadian in one human being. Corporal Ron Francis was one such mountie. His story is tragic, beginning with ideals, followed by 20 years of service and ending in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, medical marijuana, public protest, confiscation of beloved uniform and ultimately, suicide.