The following video and reporting is very disturbing for a number of reasons
- Gitxsan community members were on their unceded land
- Article 10 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states: Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories
- Journalist and filmmaker Melissa Cox was arrested. “While reporting on Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Territories I have witnessed alarming levels of violent state repression of independent media“
Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory
Video Via @The Media Co-op
“We published a video report last week of the blockade on unceded Gitxsan territory, taking you inside the 8 hour stand-off on Feb 24, as Gitxsan community members backed by their allies held their ground against the BC RCMP. The new report published here contains unreleased footage of the lead-up to those events, ending with the arrest of journalist and filmmaker Melissa Cox.
Previous Published Video: Highway 16 Blocked for 8 Hours After Gitxsan Chiefs Arrested – http://mediacoop.ca/…/video-highway-16-blockade-after…/36946
The morning of February 24th, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) arrested 10 people during a raid on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. The Tyendinaga Mohawks setup that railway blockade to stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation who oppose the construction of Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline on their unceded Wet’suwet’en Territory Unist’ot’en Camp . After the arrests made in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Gitxsan community members setup a railway blockade on unceded Gitxsan Territory.
That evening the British Columbian Royal Canadian Mounted Police (BC RCMP), along with their Division Liaison Team (DLT) – a unit that specializes in “Aboriginal relations” – invaded unceded Gitxsan territory and arrested 13 people. One arrest was made earlier in the day. Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs Spookw, Gwininitxw, and Dawamuux were among the 13 people arrested. Fourteen arrests in total were made that day.
Prior to the wave of arrests there was a stand-off between Gitxsan community members and the RCMP. Gitxsan community members demanded that RCMP stand down and advised RCMP that they were trespassing on unceded territory. Gitxsan community members advised RCMP that they were violating their human rights and breaking the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Article 10 of UNDRIP states, “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories.” The RCMP advanced and began quickly making arrests.
The Gitxsan hereditary chiefs, together with hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en nation, were plaintiffs in the landmark Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa court case. The Supreme Court of Canada found that Aboriginal title had never been extinguished over 55,000 km2 of Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en land.
While filming this video report journalist and filmmaker Melissa Cox was arrested. Melissa Cox is on assignment with Mutual Aid Media as a filmmaker for the feature length documentary film YINT’AH. Mutual Aid Media’s statement on the arrest: https://medium.com/…/statement-on-the-arrest-of-documentary… (excerpts below)
“It was clear to me that police arrested me to prevent me from documenting the arrest of 71 year-old Head House Chief and Matriarch Gwininitxw (Yvonne Lattie) on her own territory. I had no opportunity to leave the scene or to reposition myself. While reporting on Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Territories I have witnessed alarming levels of violent state repression of independent media. Since beginning to report on this issue of immense public importance, myself and my colleagues have been detained, repeatedly threatened with arrest, had our access limited by the imposition of an “illegal” exclusion zone, and have been told what we can and cannot document (which included threats of arrest from RCMP if we documented tactical teams). A free press is essential to a functioning democracy and is a pillar for peace. The repression of journalists covering this story across Canada is being enacted by police forces everywhere you look. The way that I was treated made me feel as if I was a target that needed to be neutralized.” – Melissa Cox
Video report by Melissa Cox”
We are outraged by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) decision to arrest our long-time colleague, journalist and filmmaker Melissa Cox, on the evening of February 24th 2020, at New Hazelton on unceded Gitxsan territory.
Ms. Cox has been documenting Wet’suwet’en land defenders’ efforts to resist Coastal GasLink’s pipeline project for nearly two months, filming for a documentary by the working title YINT’AH of which we are the producers, and filing video reports with other media outlets.
On February 24th, she was filming as Gitxsan hereditary chiefs and supporters blocked the tracks at New Hazelton in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and the Mohawks of Tyendinaga. She was wearing a press credential from the National Press Photographers Association.
Ms. Cox had just filmed as the RCMP arrested Gitxsan hereditary Chief Spookw. In spite of the fact that she was clearly marked press, RCMP officers chose to arrest her, thus making it impossible for her to carry out her work documenting and bearing witness to the events underway.
We are deeply disturbed by the RCMP’s arrest of Ms. Cox, which is part of a pattern of detentions, arrests and efforts to limit the access and mobility of journalists that we have witnessed across the country over the past month. Freedom of the press and other media of communication is a fundamental freedom protected by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In March 2019, a landmark decision by a Newfoundland and Labrador court known as the Justin Brake case reaffirmed that even when an injunction order has been issued, special considerations apply to journalists working in good faith and reporting on matters in the public interest. The decision states that: “To achieve the goal of reconciliation, better understanding of aboriginal peoples and aboriginal issues is needed. This places a heightened importance on ensuring that independently-reported information about aboriginal issues, including aboriginal protests, is available to the extent possible.”
Security forces arresting journalists and filmmakers causes a chilling effect on freedom of speech and interferes with the public’s right to be informed, which are cornerstones of democracy. Transparency and communication in a fair, accurate, nuanced and honest way is also the only basis on which right relations between people and between nations can ever be achieved. This has been Ms. Cox’s stance as a documentary filmmaker, and we wholeheartedly stand with her. We expect that no charges will be laid, and that as matters of public interest related to policing of Indigenous communities continue to unfold throughout Canada, journalists and filmmakers will be able to report and film unimpeded.
Statement on the Arrest of Documentary Filmmaker Melissa Cox, Yint’ah Film, Feb 26, 2020
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples delineates and defines the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, including their ownership rights to cultural and ceremonial expression, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues. It “emphasizes the rights of Indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations”. It “prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples”, and it “promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development”.UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Article 10 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states: Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.UNDRIP Article 10: No Forced Removal