[News] Wet’suwet’en Protesters Face Surveillance And Harassment

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 21 10:34:31 EDT 2022

Wet’suwet’en Protesters Face Surveillance And Harassment
By Anish R M, People's Dispatch.- April 20, 2022
[image: image.png]

Above Photo: Pictured is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) made an
arrest based on a mistaken identification on April 18. Wet’suwet’en
activists have stated that the arrest was a part of prolonged intimidation
and harassment by the police. Gidimt’en Checkpoint / Twitter.
Traditional leaders and organizers of the Wet’suwet’en movement against
Coastal GasLink have pointed out constant police incursions since March and
heavy surveillance of protest sites.

As the Indigenous anti-pipeline resistance against the Coastal GasLink
(CGL) continues in the Wet’suwet’en lands in Canada, the police have been
intimidating the protesters and residents of the land and conducting
surveillance. On Monday, April 18, the Royal Mounted Canadian Police (RCMP)
arrested and later released a supporter of the Wet’suwet’en cause over
mistaken identification.

According to the Gidimt’en Checkpoint, a group of Gidimt’en clan members of
the Wet’suwet’en organizing the resistance, the arrest is an outcome of
more than a month of intimidation and harassment by the police. “This
tax-payer funded harassment and intimidation is an explicit attempt to make
Wet’suwet’en people unsafe on our own lands,” the group said in a statement.

Gidimt’en Checkpoint stated that since March, the RCMP has been making
nearly daily visits to village sites in the lands. The group claims that
the federal police force made over 100 visits to residences and
congregations in the Indigenous lands. The RCMP visits are made anywhere
between four to eight times a day to intimidate and harass leaders,
activists and supporters, said Gidimt’en Checkpoint.

Protesters have claimed that the lands have been under surveillance round
the clock, since January, when protesters had to make a strategic retreat
a major occupation near Camp Coyote on the pipeline’s drill site to avoid
further arrests and legal harassment.

The concerns of widespread state surveillance were only vindicated further
when a recent report
on *APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network)* on April 8 revealed that
federal officials have been keeping an eye on possible coalition building
among Wet’suwet’en activists and Mohawk groups protesting against logging
in Fairy Creek in Vancouver.

The report based on de-classified internal memos showed that the
crown-indigenous relations deputy minister, Daniel Quan-Watson, briefed the
Privy Council Office (the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office)
and its intelligence wing about the alliance-building and the possibility
of such alliances causing a repeat of the nationwide protests of early
2020. Those protests were sparked
<https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/02/29/what-is-happening-in-wetsuweten/> by
police repression against Wet’suwet’en activists.

Activists have also accused the police of interrupting Wet’suwet’en rituals
due to these unwarranted visits, which the police say is to “check-in” on
the activities in the lands. “It is not okay that this level of daily
harassment is being normalized,” the group said. “We are not free on our
own yintah (land).”

The RCMP has in the past employed heavy-handed tactics to break apart
sit-ins and demonstrations near the CGL pipeline drillsite. According to
the RCMP spent close to CAD 943,234 (over USD 750,000) between November 1
and December 23, 2021, at the height of violent confrontations with
Indigenous protesters.

The harassment comes at a time when pipeline resistors have taken to expand
their movement outside the Wet’suwet’en lands and pressure investors of the
controversial pipeline project. Last week, on April 7, a delegation of
hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en were scheduled to attend the
shareholders’ meet of the Royal Bank of Canada, one of the main investors
in the pipeline project.

The RBC had canceled the in-person meeting due to a COVID outbreak, which
activists argued was an excuse to avoid uncomfortable questions from the
Indigenous group. RBC had earlier scuttled a major proposal on financing of
fossil fuel projects from being considered in the shareholders’ meeting,
prior to the meeting.

“RBC has a track record of ignoring our concerns, and the criticism of
shareholders and customers,” said Molly Wickham or Sleydo’, spokesperson
for the Gidimt’en Checkpoint. “It seems like they don’t want to answer for
their financing of the rights-violating Coastal GasLink fracked gas
pipeline and to face us in person.”

Wet’suwet’en activists have nevertheless refused to back down and continued
to attract solidarity and attention, both nationally and internationally.

In March, a group of 65 Hollywood personalities, including the likes Mark
Ruffalo, Leonardo DiCaprio, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Edward
Norton, Jane Fonda, and Robert Downey Jr. wrote a joint letter to the RBC,
demanding that it pull out of CGL.

“Despite claiming to be a leader in climate conscious banking, since
acquiring CNB (City National Bank, a subsidiary of RBC) in 2015, RBC has
spent over $160 billion to become one of the world’s largest and most
aggressive financiers of tar sands, fossil fuel extraction, and transport,”
the letter reads. CNB is often called the “bank of the stars” for holding
bank accounts of major personalities in the entertainment industry.

Wet’suwet’en activists and traditional chiefs have long resisted the
construction of the pipeline on their traditional lands. While TC Energy’s
project has been backed by an injunction by the British Columbia Supreme
Court which permitted the work to continue, Indigenous groups have argued
that the lands were never ceded and any construction on it requires the
consent of the traditional tribal chiefs.

They have also countered TC Energy’s argument of having secured consent
from band council chiefs elected under the provisions of the controversial
Indian Act, and instead cited a 1997 Canadian Supreme Court judgment that
the aboriginal title for Wet’suwet’en lands have never been extinguished.
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