Wet’suwet’en Call for Legal Observers

Planning and executing a nonviolent direct action needs careful planning ahead of the event. An important part is to teach the significance of not responding to provocation. This is so important that training almost always uses role playing, so participants get a feeling of what provocation is like. After the exercise, people share how that felt, and trainer might point out mistakes made, or good things they saw during the exercise.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) did a lot of training during the Civil Rights era of the 1960’s. Those of us who lived then saw students at segregated lunch counters sitting calmly as food was dumped on them. Young people bravely rode on buses into the South to draw attention to the continued segregation of interstate travel. One bus was set on fire. Fortunately everyone escaped. In Birmingham, Alabama, children left school to march. Over 1,000 were arrested. During the second march the children faced fire hoses and police dogs.

In 2013 three environmental action organizations, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), CREDO, and the Other 98% organized a nonviolent campaign to try to stop the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline permit. The Keystone Pledge of Resistance was posted online. Those who signed the Pledge entered their contact information, so they could be updated with news about Keystone’s approval.

“I pledge, if necessary, to join others in my community, and engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to President Obama and his administration that they must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”

97,236 activists signed the Pledge.

Those who signed the Pledge could also indicate if they wanted to learn to train people in their communities how to organize peaceful civil disobedience actions, which I did. I received extensive training from the Rainforest Action Network. Nearly 400 Action Leads were trained, who in turn trained about 4,000 people in their local communities. After months of public rallies against Keystone, President Obama decided to reject the Keystone permit.

One of the important things we were taught were the various roles that needed to be filled and trained for.

Gidimt’en and Unist’ot’en are looking for people to be legal observers, which looks like the “police observer” role above.

Gidimt’en and Unist’ot’en are seeking legal observers. Our unceded Wet’suwet’en lands are under attack, with police enforcement of a colonial court injunction possible at any time. Hereditary Chiefs of all five Wet’suwet’en clans have rejected the injunction decision, which criminalizes Anuk ‘nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law), and have made clear that no access to Wet’suwet’en territories will be granted without free, prior, and informed consent. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has also called upon Canada to immediately halt the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline and urged Canada to withdraw RCMP from our territories. Instead of the RCMP standing down, a recent RCMP exclusion zone has further escalated police occupation of our territories.

If you are our neighbor and want to support us meaningfully but haven’t been sure how, this is your chance!



What are legal observers?

A Legal Observer witnesses and monitors the actions of law enforcement agencies and security forces and collects information for the purposes of legal defense. You do not require any legal background at all and, ideally, are actually not a practicing lawyer.

  • Do not participate in protest or risk arrest.
  • Do not provide legal advice.
  • Do not speak to media.
  • Do not interfere with police activity.
  • Remain “neutral” while observing.

You must commit to:

  • Affirming the jurisdiction, leadership, and legal order of the Wet’suwet’en.
  • Being available approximately 8-10 hours per week. Legal observers will be observing at a number of possible sites within the territories.
  • Completing a training session, currently scheduled for either Monday January 20th or the evening of Thursday January 23rd in Smithers (other workshops are also being scheduled at other locations, over the coming weeks).
  • Working collaboratively with your Legal Observer partner on shift, and Legal Observer Team as a whole.
  • Safeguarding and keeping confidential any information you collect.
  • Being as self-sufficient as possible on the land and terrain, including transport to and from your shift. We are primarily recruiting from surrounding areas, including Smithers, Houston etc, so as to ensure consistency and long-term presence.
  • Barring emergencies, being punctual and responsible, with the understanding that the team and our community is relying on you.

We require a team of 50-60 legal observers. Your time and ethical commitment are the most useful assets; all supplies and a comprehensive training will be provided by experienced movement lawyers and/or legal support organizers. Details about legal observer training will be sent to you after you fully complete the form and are approved by Wet’suwet’en spokespeople.


For any questions, contact:

Irina Ceric: irina.ceric@gmail.com
Noah Ross: noah.ross.j@gmail.com
Harsha Walia: hwalia8@gmail.com


#WetsuwetenStrong #NoTrespass #DefendTheYintah #LandDefenders #WaterProtectors #RiseUp #LightYourSacredFires #AllEyesOnWetsuweten

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