Banner against pipelines As climate negotiations get underway in Poland, the real ground zero in the global battle against climate chaos this week is in Wet´sewet´en territory, British Colombia.
The Unist’ot’en clan, members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, built their family home in 2010 on the GPS coordinates of a projected pipeline. Since then, their occupation has flourished. It is now home to a traditional pit-house, a permaculture garden, a solar powered mini-grid and a healing lodge.
To date, no pipeline work has been done on their unceded territory. The re-occupation of their lands is in the path of several proposed pipeline projects, including the Pacific Trails Pipeline, the Enbridge pipeline, and the Coastal Link Gas Pipeline.
Contractors attempting to gain access have been turned away at a checkpoint by peaceful land defenders. The Unist’ot’en are reimagining free, prior, and informed consent, and, in-so-doing, re-establishing themselves in their ancestral lands.
On November 27th, the land defenders of the Unist’ot’en camp were served an injunction and civil lawsuit by TransCanada, the company behind the Coastal Gas Link pipeline project. The injunction, which asks the RCMP to arrest and remove all people from the camp as soon as next week, will be heard in a BC court on Monday, December 10, International Human Rights Day.
TransCanada is seeking an “interim, interlocutory or permanent injunction,” police enforcement, and financial charges against those “occupying, obstructing, blocking, physically impeding or delaying access” to Wet´sewet´en territory.
The notice doesn’t name the Unist’ot’en house group and hereditary chiefs, who collectively hold title and govern Unist’ot’en territory according to Wet’suwet’en law. Instead, it’s directed at and aims to criminalize two individuals: Freda Huson and Warner Naziel. According to Smogelgem, Hereditary Chief of the Laksamshu Clan, “this as an attempt to individualise, demobilise, and criminalise us in order to bulldoze through our home.”
The camp´s press release declares that “the Unist’ot’en Camp is not a blockade, a protest, or a demonstration – it is a permanent, non-violent occupation of Unist’ot’en territory, established to protect our homelands from illegal industrial encroachments and to preserve a space for our community to heal from the violence of colonization.
We see TransCanada’s legal threat, which requests that the RCMP enter our territory by force, as a direct challenge to the safety of our residents and an extension of the colonial violence from which we are trying to heal.”
Violations of law
Pushing pipelines through on sovereign territory without free, prior and informed consent violates both Canadian law and international law. The Wet´sewet´en, along with the Gitxsan, were plaintiffs in the ground-breaking Deglamuukw-Gisday’wa court case, which recognized that Wet’suwet’en rights and title have never been extinguished across 22,000 km2 of northern British Columbia.
This aboriginal title includes the right to use, manage, and possess land, and to decide how the land will be used. With the 1997 Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa case, the Gitxsan and Wetsuwet’en demanded recognition of their unextinguished jurisdiction over the land based on the fact that they had never signed any land treaties with the governments of Canada and therefore that they had never ceded title to their traditional territories.
The supreme court acknowledged that in the absence of a ratified treaty and having never been conquered in war, the Gitxsan and Wetsuwet’en thus retained title and jurisdiction over their land, according to Canadian law. Despite this ruling, the Canadian federal and provincial governments continue to push through industrial and extractive projects without consent.
Pre-election Trudeau expressed a mandate based on a renewed national “nation-to-nation relationship, based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership” with First Nations in Canada.
Trudeau also pledged that his government would “fully adopt and work to implement” […]
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