'A war zone': Wet'suwet'en denounce RCMP tactics
On the road leading to the Coastal Gaslink pipeline near Houston, British Columbia, Wet'suwet'en opponents of the project say they are being intimidated by the RCMP.
Gaylene Morris of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in front of the barricade at Camp Gidimt'en, west of the city of Houston, British Columbia.
“This is where we live,” says Gaylene Morris, of the Likhsamasyu Clan, Wet'suwet'en First Nation, as she prepares sandwiches with locally caught and smoked salmon. With her daughter, she spends four days a week on this ground, nicknamed the Gidimt'en checkpoint.
At the table, the calm atmosphere of the group clashes with what has been happening for several years behind the wooden gate that barricades the houses. This area is under high voltage.
It is located at the 44th kilometer of a logging road, west of the city of Houston, which leads to the construction site of TC Energy's Coastal Gaslink, a 670 km pipeline that crosses central British Columbia to transport liquefied natural gas to Kitimat, on the coast.
A map shows the route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline crossing Wet'suwet'en ancestral territory and the Gidimt'en checkpoint.
I call it the war zone. It's an invisible war, because it seems to me that people don't realize what we're going through here. It's as if the police and security are watching you 24/7 outside your door, she claims.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Community and Industry Safety Task Force (CISC) is omnipresent in the area, according to several community members. This division is specially mandated during protests or obstructions to natural resource exploitation projects in British Columbia.
Gaylene Morris denounces the techniques used by this division . We have experienced road intimidation, harassment, stops and checks for dirty license plates.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP has received 488 complaints from the public against GISCI, which has been in operation since 2017.The current barrier at Camp Gidimt'en does not obstruct the road leading to the site.Gaylene Morris enters the kitchen at Camp Gidimt'en.The inscription “Land Back” is a symbol of calls for the restoration of indigenous sovereignty over ancestral territories. -Canada/Camille VernetSee previous imageSee next image
Gwi Lok im Gibuu (Jesse Stoeppler), of the Gitxsan Nation and Wet'suwet'en, pointe towards the high wooden fence that surrounds the houses. This fence has been knocked down several times, three or four times by the RCMP, who said they do wellness checks.
After an attack on the gas pipeline site on February 17, 2022, the security services and the GISCI reinforced their presence. Coastal Gaslink says 20 people assaulted security guards and workers about 20 miles from Gidimt'en. The RCMP investigation is still ongoing, and there have been no charges.
We had no information to provide them, explains Gaylene Morris, who says she is not involved in this case. After this event, she says, visits to the camp intensified. At one point, it went up to eight visits in the space of 12 hours. So there were four visits per day and four visits in the middle of the night. This made us very anxious.
Gwi Lok im Gibuu (Jesse Stoeppler), Na'moks (John Ridsdale), Kai Nagata and Gaylene Morris on the logging road west of the city of Houston that leads to the Coastal Gaslink construction site.
GISCI responded by email that it had conducted a series of patrols along the Morice River Forest Service Road in execution of a court injunction, and that x27;he continues his presence. This injunction prohibits anyone from blocking access to the road for the duration of construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is 84% complete. The current barrier that protects Wet'suwet'en First Nation homes does not obstruct the road leading to the construction site.
Patrols are reported to have increased in the area in response to the Feb. 17 attack, but none were considered a wellness check, say the RCMP, who say GISCI's actions were lawful and necessary to preserve public safety.
Gwi Lok im Gibuu (Jesse Stoeppler), of the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en Nation, regularly visits the route of the gas pipeline, he says he has already been surrounded in his vehicle by a dozen agents.
Road blockages, demonstrations and arrests, the conflict has been going on in the region since 2019.< /p>
I think GISCI has a negative impact on the people who live here or who have come to support. No one expected guns, chainsaws or attack dogs to be pointed in their faces, says Gwi Lok im Gibuu.
GISCI has been under investigation by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC) since March 9. I hope it will change things, but I don't believe it 100%, said hereditary chief wet'suwet'en Na'moks (John Ridsdale).
He testified on March 9 before José Francisco Calí-Tzay, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, during his visit to Vancouver.
In his end-of-mission statement on March 10, the UN rapporteur mentions the Coastal GasLink project in British Columbia.
< p>“I am concerned about the continued militarization of Indigenous lands and the criminalization of Indigenous human rights defenders who resist pipelines. »
— José Francisco Calí-Tzay, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief Na'moks (John Ridsdale) stands at the site where one of the cabins built by opponents of Coastal Gaslink was burned down.< /p>
On this road that leads to the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, Na'moks says he is always accompanied by a lawyer or a journalist. We grew up in the territory and we could go where we wanted, when we wanted and for any reason we wanted.
Since the beginning of the construction of the gas pipeline, the restricted accesses and the constant presence of the forces of order have not been acceptable, according to the hereditary chief.
“We lose our sense of freedom.
—Na'moks, Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief
He says he is impressed by Gaylene Morris, who day and night, travels on the road to access the Gidimt'en camp. She explains that, for her safety, she must notify someone before each trip and that she has equipped her vehicle with a camera.
Gaylene Morris serves sandwiches in the kitchen at Camp Gidimt'en.
Gaylene Morris is determined to continue to live on the land of her ancestors. This is our home and we are doing nothing wrong, she said.
My hope for the future is that my children and grandchildren can live a free life without being prevented from accessing their territory. The safety and freedom of my children is what I hope for the future.