Profit over people: What the Wet’suwet’en struggle reveals about corporate capture

Collage of Wetsuweten lodge and Mikmaq lodge

As the International Days of Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en build in momentum across Turtle Island, the responses of the Canadian and British Columbian governments have been abysmal.

The Delgamuukw Supreme Court decision in 1997 affirmed that Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have legal jurisdiction over the nation’s territory. In violation of this decision, both the provincial and federal governments have continued to sanction illegal RCMP attacks on camps and Indigenous land defenders on the land of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Beginning on February 6, the RCMP raided monitoring posts, supporter camps, and finally the Unist’ot’en camp, healing lodge and camp on Monday, February 10, 2020.

Shamefully, this was not the first time that governments have sanctioned RCMP raids since the Unist’ot’en camp was established in 2009. And late last year, the Guardian revealed that the RCMP has been prepared to use lethal force in previous raids. It is obvious that the Canadian and British Columbian governments are putting the rights and interests of a corporation over the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

This pro-industry attack on land defenders is not a new development. An article from the Narwhal earlier this week highlighted that the B.C. government has been pushing to abolish Aboriginal title to benefit industry since at least the Delgamuukw decision. Instead of prioritizing the healing of residential school survivors, the government discussed using federal funds to pressure Nations into treaty negotiations, and other tactics to fight land rights with legal challenges.

We saw another clear example of our governments’ pro-corporate stance when the B.C. Supreme Court extended the Coastal GasLink (CGL) injunction in late December. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs govern the traditional territories of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, and have never given permission to CGL to enter or work on their territories. As such, the law of this land is Anuk ‘nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en Law). The fact that the provincial and federal government moved against a Supreme Court case law decision and Anuk ‘nu’at’en, means that their actions were both illegal, and tell us a lot about their priorities.

The government’s pro-industry move is also in violation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was affirmed by the B.C. government just months ago. Article 10 of the declaration clearly states that “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous peoples concerned…

Our country continues to experience a corporate-led, colonial counter-revolution working to undermine the advancement of Indigenous rights.

The Wet’suwet’en are not alone in their struggle to push governments to recognize and uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in their daily lives.

This week in Nova Scotia, the Council of Canadians joined Mi’kmaq grassroots grandmothers and water protectors in uncovering new documents showing the Alton Gas Project, a fossil fuel storage project proposed to take place on the land of the Mi’kmaq Nation, would violate the federal Fisheries Act. Rather than enforce its own laws, the federal government opted to pursue an exception that would allow Alton Gas to pollute the local river and introduce toxic brine eight times saltier than seawater to local fisheries.

The Alton Gas Project also illustrates how effectively corporations and billionaires have captured our democracy – and our ability as a society to protect human rights and fulfill our obligations to tackle the climate crisis. The Mi’kmaq Nation did not provide Free, Prior and Informed Consent to the project as required under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

These actions in B.C. and Nova Scotia effectively place a shameful asterisk on Canada’s claims to support Indigenous rights and reconciliation, with fine print underneath.

The struggles of the Mi’kmaq and Wet’suwet’en Nations are crucial in pushing against the corporate agenda that has captured our decision makers. Our governments have shown where they stand – it is up to us, the people, to show up and support those engaged in the front line resistance to the corporate agenda.

So, show up! Donate to the Unist’ot’en Legal Fund and the Gidimt’en Access Point.

Call your Member of Parliament and let them know that you support the Wet’suwet’en Nation and Hereditary Chiefs.

Send an email to your Member of Parliament.

Get information about a solidarity action near you. If there is not currently an event in your community, use the Wet’suwet’en Supporter Toolkit to organize your event and add Idle No More, Indigenous Environmental Network and Indigenous Climate Action as Facebook event co-hosts so they can help to amplify.