SOURCE: The Guardian
DATE: December 20, 2019
SNIP: Canadian police were prepared to shoot Indigenous land defenders blockading construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia, according to documents seen by the Guardian.
Notes from a strategy session for a militarized raid on ancestral lands of the Wet’suwet’en nation show that commanders of Canada’s national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), argued that “lethal overwatch is req’d” – a term for deploying snipers.
The RCMP commanders also instructed officers to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” ahead of the operation to remove a roadblock which had been erected by Wet’suwet’en people to control access to their territories and stop construction of the proposed 670km (416-mile) Coastal GasLink pipeline (CGL).
In a separate document, an RCMP officer states that arrests would be necessary for “sterilizing the site”.
Wet’suwet’en people and their supporters set up the Gidimt’en checkpoint in December 2018 to block construction of the pipeline through this region of mountains and pine forests 750 miles north of Vancouver.
On 7 January, RCMP officers – dressed in military-green fatigues and armed with assault rifles – descended on the checkpoint, dismantling the gate and arresting 14 people.
The checkpoint lies 22km east of a camp operated by a house group of the Wet’suwet’en called the Unist’ot’en, which has been at the center of the struggle against the pipeline.
The camp is one of several instances where Indigenous people in British Columbia have reinhabited ancestral territory that falls outside of demarcated reservations, in what they refer to as “reoccupation”.
Unist’ot’en spokesperson Freda Huson (Howilhkat) said that the RCMP’s militarized posture during the raid was consistent with a long history of colonial violence.
“In our experience, since first contact, RCMP have been created by the federal government to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands,” Huson said. “They have proven [that] through their harassment of my people to support Coastal GasLink in invading our territories.”
The revelations come as the Wet’suwet’en camps brace for a provincial supreme court ruling on an injunction applied for by the pipeline builder TC Energy (formerly TransCanada), which seeks to permanently restrict the Wet’suwet’en from blocking access to pipeline work sites.
The pipeline would run from the Dawson Creek area of northern British Columbia to a facility near Kitimat on the Pacific coast. CGL has begun road-building and clear-cutting on the right-of-way, and the company intends to start construction in early-2020.