Support for Wet’suwet’en

Two weeks ago, on February 25th, protestors who support Wet’suwet’en were arrested at the rail blockade in Toronto. “The protests have been set up in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia, who are opposing a pipeline project and infringements on their territorial rights.” (The Globe and Mail) All across Canada, people are showing their support for Wet’suwet’en and their right to protect and choose what happens to the future of their unceded land.

If you have not heard about Wet’suwet’en (pronunciation) and the fight against the pipeline, here are a few things you need to know: the Canadian government wants to build a 670-kilometer long pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas through Indigenous land that is unceded. Unceded land means that the land has never been surrendered to or acquired by another. Canadian courts do not have any jurisdiction on Wet’suwet’en territory. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have full jurisdiction as the land is unceded and none of those jurisdictions have been surrendered to Canadian jurisdiction. 

In 1997, there was a court case that resulted in the land being acknowledged as Wet’suwet’en land, belonging to the Wet’suwet’en people. You may have heard of the “Aboriginal title” before, and what it refers to is the inherent Indigenous right to land or a territory. “The Canadian legal system recognizes “Aboriginal title” as a sui generis, or unique collective right to the use of and jurisdiction over a group’s ancestral territories.” (Indigenous Foundations) The hereditary chiefs have the say in what happens to Wet’suwet’en land. There’s a difference between band councils and hereditary chiefs. In regards to band council, “the elected council can only make decisions within the village boundaries, which are not along the pipeline route.” Indigenous nations were forced to adopt band councils because the government wouldn’t recognize their traditional forms of governance, but since the land is unceded and belongs to Wet’suwet’en people, they should be able to govern it how they want. 

The Canadian Coastal Gaslink project representatives forced entry on Wet’suwet’en land, claiming they have jurisdiction with the Canadian government and the right to start work, but the land does not fall under Canadian jurisdiction. RCMP have been acting illegally and forcibly removing people from their own land and arresting them. Police were airdropped behind an Indigenous ceremony that happened on February 10th 2020, onto Wet’suwet’en land and arrested the people of the land. If you are interested in knowing more about what happened February 10th, check out this video

Why is the pipeline so bad? Well, one reason is that it is not a renewable energy source and negatively affects the environment. After all the climate strikes in the fall, we’re finally acknowledging that we’re in the middle of an environmental crisis, “making any discussion about carbon emissions even more fraught, so how can this pipeline be of the public interest like the government claims, when so many people are fighting against it?” (Chatelaine) The fight against the pipeline has been based on climate change, fear of spills and Indigenous land rights.

Another negative thing the pipeline would bring is work camps, also known as “man camps,” onto Wet’suwet’en land. With work camps comes the fear of an increase in missing and murdered Indigenous women and sexual assault, as work camps have a sex trafficking nature (Vancouver Sun). The builders of the pipeline would do what has always been done in the past; build work camps, hosting mostly young men. “The concern has roots in northern B.C., where a 2017 consultant report raised warnings about ‘hyper-masculine’ culture in remote work camps, noting the Fort St. James area experienced a 38 percent increase in RCMP-reported sexual assaults in one industrial project’s first year.” (Macleans)

So how can you support? Show your solidarity for the Wet’suwet’en and the Unist’ot’en fight against the Canadian Coastal Gaslink project. One way to help is to take action and attend your local marches and barricades. You can also screen the short film called Invasion that has a lot of information about the issue and educate your friends and family. You can hold a fundraiser for Wet’suwet’en support, or even donate. You can sign the pledge to support Unist’ot’en and write about it and share it on your social media. Visit the Unist’ot’en website at https://unistoten.camp/ for more options on how to give your support. There’s also a ton of information on the site and a blog that gets updated. 

There are many events taking place in Toronto in support of Wet’suwet’en. Here are a list of a few events that are coming up below:

  1. House of Kings Fundraiser Show 

  2. Rock for Wet’suwet’en (music and fundraiser)

  3. Toronto book club: Indigenous sovereignty, ecosocialism & social change