Criminalization of Indigenous land defenders

Just prior to COP26, more than 120 organizations signed the Call to Action from the Global Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice that states: “We call on all governments to respect the right of freedom of expression and peaceful protest, and to immediately halt the criminalization of land defenders, whose efforts are central to a climate-just world.”

That statement calling for an end to the criminalization of land defenders was echoed by Global Witness, Fridays for Future and others.

The UN Human Rights Council also passed a resolution in March 2019 that affirms defenders “must be ensured a safe and enabling environment to undertake their work free from hindrance and insecurity, in recognition of their important role in supporting States to fulfil their obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

Third RCMP raid; Canada ignores UN resolution

The RCMP raid on November 18-19 is the third RCMP assault on Wet’suwet’en territory in support of the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline being constructed on their territory without free, prior and informed consent.

On January 8, 2019, the RCMP arrested 14 Wet’suwet’en land defenders.

Notes from a RCMP strategy session prior to that raid show that RCMP commanders stated that “lethal overwatch is req’d” and that officers were instructed to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” ahead of the operation to remove a roadblock established by Wet’suwet’en land defenders.

In December 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Canada to stop construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory and to remove the RCMP from those lands.

Ignoring that resolution, a second RCMP raid was launched just weeks later on February 6, 2020. Twenty-two land defenders were arrested at that time.

This week Amnesty International Canada called on the governments of Canada and British Columbia, as well as the RCMP, to: “comply without delay with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s 2019 recommendation that Canada withdraw security and policing services from Wet’suwet’en traditional lands.”

Canada was required to submit a report to the UN Committee on Monday November 15 on its compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Instead, Canada delayed that until an unspecified date in 2022.

RCMP arrest Wet’suwet’en land defenders days after COP26 summit by Brent Patterson,, November 21, 2021

Sleydo’, the Wet’suwet’en spokesperson for Gidimt’en Checkpoint, discusses an Indigenous-led campaign to stop investors from funding Coastal GasLink and LNG Canada. Sleydo’ says that they are giving investors formal notice that they are violating Wet’suwet’en law and are demanding immediate withdrawal of all financial support. Sleydo’ notes that this campaign is requesting full cessation of this pipeline’s production.

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