Double standards of racism and colonialism
Canada has a climate double standard. While land and water defenders face serious criminalization, repression, and police brutality, we’re continuing to witness in Wet’suwet’en territory, corporations – backed by the RCMP – get away with breaking the law with impunity.
The realities of this double standard have been highlighted by a groundbreaking report by the Yellowhead Institute on the use of injunctions. Yellowhead researchers found that 76 per cent of injunctions filed against First Nations by corporations were granted. Meanwhile, 81 per cent of injunctions filed by First Nations against corporations and 82 per cent of those filed against the government by First Nations were denied.
As the researchers write, “this means that 4 times out of 5, the courts side with corporations and government rather than Indigenous claimants on land use cases.”
In Wet’suwet’en territory, injunctions have been used to clear people off their land and expedite Coastal GasLink’s pipeline construction. Shiri Pasternak and Irina Ceric wrote in July 2020 that as solidarity blockades spread across the country last year, so too did the injunctions. There were 12 injunctions – all of them granted – to suppress the protests, blockades, and occupations that arose in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en struggle. As Pasternak and Ceric pointed out, this demonstrates that “Canada is a smash-and-grab country for industry, revealing that historic incentives of colonialism are still alive and well today.”
Today, Coastal GasLink continues to break the law with impunity. Even though it still lacks a key environmental authorization, the corporation is proceeding with the pipeline anyway. What’s more, Coastal GasLink has been evicted from the territory in accordance with Wet’suwet’en law, but they refuse to leave.
But the RCMP, with the support of the B.C. and federal governments, is siding with the pipeline.
It’s no wonder that the RCMP disregards the law in clearing Wet’suwet’en and other Indigenous peoples from their land. It is at this point well documented that systemic racism permeates the RCMP to its core. The RCMP’s actions in Wet’suwet’en territory are deeply rooted in that racism.
As Pam Palmater recently pointed out, “in December 2019 the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) called on Canada to stop construction of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, remove the RCMP and their weapons from Wet’suwet’en territory, protect Indigenous peoples from violence, and to respect Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent.”
Despite this, she continues, “weeks later, the RCMP engaged in a campaign of forced removals and arrests along the pipeline route.”
Meanwhile, RCMP officers routinely break the law with impunity. The RCMP’s use of exclusion zones in Wet’suwet’en territory have been unlawful. And despite a B.C. Court judge ordering the RCMP not to interfere with media access to ongoing protests like Fairy Creek this past summer, the RCMP arrested journalists at the Wet’suwet’en camp anyway.
The forced relocation of Indigenous peoples from their land is a violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). And the RCMP violated the right to water of land defenders at the Wet’suwet’en’s Coyote Camp by intentionally eliminating their water supply. That the RCMP officer who drained the camp’s water supply can be seen on the video footage visibly enjoying doing so is just one more example of the RCMP’s racism in Wet’suwet’en territory.
The RCMP are ‘mercenaries’ for corporate profits
The RCMP, racism, and resource extraction go hand in hand.
As Gidimt’en checkpoint recently wrote, “in the middle of a climate emergency, as highways and roads are being washed away and entire communities are being flooded and evacuated, the province has chosen to send busloads of police to criminalize Wet’suwet’en water protectors and to work as a mercenary force for oil and gas.”
It’s a whole other level of perverse that the B.C. and federal governments have supported yet another violent invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory, the third in three years, when they should be focusing on dealing with the ongoing flooding disaster in the province, brought on by pipelines like Coastal GasLink.
But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is textbook shock doctrine, used to advance corporate interests at the expense of people, communities, and the climate.
The Wet’suwet’en people aren’t only defending their land; they’re defending our collective future from another pipeline that our climate can’t afford. And we must continue to organize in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en until the Coastal GasLink pipeline is cancelled once and for all.