The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed actions related to the Wet’suwet’en people’s efforts to stop the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline from being built on their territories. Unfortunately the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were recently seen patrolling a Wet’suwet’en cultural site with assault rifles.
There are related stories below, about systemic racism in Canada, and solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the work of Indigenous peoples.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – PHOTOS: RCMP Patrol Wet’suwet’en Cultural Site With Assault Rifles
June 29 2020, Smithers (BC) – Photographs taken on Wet’suwet’en territory show RCMP armed with assault weapons conducting foot patrols of a cultural site belonging to Hereditary Chief Woos of Cas Yikh (Grizzly House). Security cameras belonging to the Gidimt’en clan recorded images of heavily armed police patrolling Chief Woos’ smokehouse on June 10 and June 18.
The smokehouse belongs to the Cas Yikh people and is critically located at the headwaters of the Wedzin Kwa river to harvest fish and feed Wet’suwet’en families. Food fishing is an inalienable and protected Aboriginal right. Food fishing has also been declared essential in BC during the COVID19 pandemic. Wet’suwet’en people must be able to exercise this right without fear of police intimidation or violence.
Since January of 2019, RCMP have conducted several large scale, militarized assaults on Wet’suwet’en territory and made dozens of arrests of Wet’suwet’en people, Hereditary Chiefs, and our supporters. RCMP continuously surveil our Wet’suwet’en home sites, and continue to occupy a remote police detachment on Gisday’wa territory in stark violation of our Chiefs’ wishes. We are unable to visit our territories with our elders and families, to hunt, or to harvest our foods and medicines without the threat of police violence.
We are deeply concerned with excessively armed police conducting foot patrols through remote parts of Gidimt’en yintah which are subject to active cultural use. We have seen too frequently, on our own territories and across Canada, that police readily use lethal force against our people and seldom face any consequence.
Hereditary Chief Woos expresses his concern for his clan members and guests on his territory and states, “if we are to communicate effectively with respect, all levels of this project need to show respect and understand our culture, using a police force who show automatic rifles is concerning…”
Images from June 18 show three RCMP members patrolling the smokehouse, including one with a fully automatic assault rifle, followed shortly after by a group of Coastal Gaslink workers. Coastal Gaslink has not obtained free, prior, and informed consent to undertake any work on Wet’suwet’en territory, and do not currently have all the permits required to do work in this area.
On January 4, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs representing all five clans of our nation collectively evicted Coastal Gaslink from our territories. While the eviction is still in effect, Coastal Gaslink continues to trespass on our lands with RCMP acting as an auxiliary private security force.
The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, joined by the United Nations’ Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, have repeatedly called upon the RCMP to withdraw from Wet’suwet’en territories, to prohibit the use of force and lethal weapons, and to cease the forced evictions of Wet’suwet’en people from our unceded homelands.
We are seeing examples all across North America of systemic racism and violence perpetrated by the police. Here we see just one more example against Indigenous people living a cultural and traditional lifestyle being targeted with assault rifles. We call on all parties involved in this campaign against the Wet’suwet’en people to stand down.
For media inquiries please contact:
Woos, Cas Yikh Dini ze’- 778-669-0070 Or Jennifer Wickham, Gidimt’en Camp Media Coordinator- 778-210-0067
In order to make progress/move forward, we must ensure that those in decision-making positions align with the progressive steps we are taking (as a whole).
The RCMP commissioner has not been able to show progress by taking steps to understand what systemic racism is. This is counterproductive & problematic. We can no longer have people who are detrimental to movement forward.
Those who support addressing of systemic racism must call for those who fail to understand, to step down (or be removed). These weights can not hold us back any longer
Statement on RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki Senator Lillian Eva Dyck Saskatchewan June 13, 2020
Commissioner Brenda Lucki’s statements in the last few days reveal that she does not possess the necessary knowledge or skills to remain as the RCMP Commissioner. She should step down or be removed immediately. This will benefit all Canadians, including the members of the RCMP.
Her recent statements show that she does not fully understand what systemic racism is; thus, she will not be able to implement or envision the way forward to eliminate systemic racism in the RCMP. Her unexplained about-face yesterday on whether or not systemic racism exists in the RCMP is paradoxical and unacceptable as a leader – as the RCMP Commissioner.
Two years ago at one of the hearings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, girls, and 2SLGBT (NI MMIWG), Commissioner Lucki apologized for the way we were treated by the RCMP. She promised that “we (the RCMP) will do better.”
It is clear now that she does not possess the knowledge or leadership skills to keep her promise.
Canadians and Indigenous women, in particular, deserve to have the best possible Commissioner who will be able to initiate and lead the necessary changes in the RCMP to keep us safer and protect us from violence. This will benefit all Canadians, including the RCMP themselves.
All Canadian citizens deserve better. We deserve to have the best possible RCMP Commissioner with the best possible competencies and the best possible leadership skills.
At the NI MMIWG hearing, Commissioner Lucki herself said “You are entitled to nothing less than our best work in your communities”.
Commissioner Brenda Lucki should resign or be removed immediately, so that Canadians can get the best possible RCMP Commissioner who is capable of doing the best work not only in Indigenous communities but in all communities.