Statement in support of the Wet'suwet'en

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The Members and Directors of EcoReality Sustainable Land Use and Education Cooperative are gravely concerned with the interlocutory injunction granted to Coastal GasLink on December 31, 2019 in connection with the use of Wet’suwet’en territories, and concerns about potential imminent escalation of the use of force by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”).

We urge Coastal Gaslink and the RCMP not to enforce the injunction order at this time, to allow for a peaceful resolution between the Wet’suwet’en, Coastal GasLink, and the provincial and federal governments.

The Wet’suwet’en assert continuous jurisdiction and unextinguished rights and land title. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized that constitutionally-protected Aboriginal title includes the right to use, enjoy, benefit from, occupy and pro-actively manage the land (Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, [1997] 3 SCR 1010; Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, [2014] 2 SCR 256). Indigenous Rights and Title requires the Crown and industry to obtain consent to use the land, and to do otherwise would infringe on that constitutionally-protected right.

We remind the RCMP that the Constitution is the ultimate law that they are charged to uphold. As agents of the Crown, the RCMP must respect the constitutionally-protected rights of Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the British Columbia legislature passed the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act [SBC 2019] C 44, in November 2019, to affirm the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”) as well as ensure the consistency of provincial laws with UNDRIP. In December 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [“CERD”] called upon Canada to “immediately halt the construction and suspend all permits and approvals for the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in the traditional and un-ceded lands and territories of the Wet’suwet’en people, until they grant their free, prior, and informed consent, following the full and adequate discharge of the duty to consult.”(U.N. CERD, Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Including Early Warning and Urgent Procedure, 100th Sess.,1, (25 November-13 December 2019).

We further remind the RCMP that they have a responsibility to ensure public safety, including the safety of Wet’suwet’en people and their invited guests. We are highly concerned about the excessive level of force, including lethal force, which the RCMP discussed and planned for its raid of Gidimt’en checkpoint in January 2019, as recently revealed by investigative reporting.

EcoReality Co-op stresses that lethal force is an absolutely unacceptable and abhorrent response to the current peaceful exercise of Wet’suwet’en law (Anuk ‘nu’at’en). We urge that the RCMP “act with integrity, fairness and impartiality, and do not compromise or abuse their authority, power or position,” as they work towards a peaceful resolution of this issue (RCMP, SOR/2014-281). De-escalation, transparency, accountability, and communication with the Wet’suwet’en Nation and their representatives is critical.

In addition, EcoReality Co-op strongly urges the RCMP to refrain from instituting exclusion zones that prohibit the public, invited guests of the Wet’suwet’en, and media from accessing Wet’suwet’en territories, which they continue to do with impunity, in effect, enforcing a press blockade of what happens there. Freedom of the press is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982. Police-enforced media and public exclusion zones violate the Charter by seriously impeding freedom of expression. EcoReality Co-op recognizes that Wet’suwet’en law (Anuk ‘nu’at’en) and Title includes the right of Wet’suwet’en to control access to and exclusion from their territory.

In our view, the injunction should not be enforced. The Crown, the RCMP, and Coastal GasLink must prioritize peaceful resolution with the Wet’suwet’en. Any such resolution must respect the Wet’suwet’en’s constitutionally-protected Aboriginal title, UNDRIP, and the goal of genuine and meaningful respect and reconciliation between the Crown and Indigenous governments. The credibility of the provincial and federal governments as rights-respecting bodies—not to mention Canada’s international reputation—depend on it.

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