Photo: Land and water defender, Kukpi7 Judy Wilson (Secwépemc Nation) at a prayer circle in Blue River, British Columbia. Photo credit: Billie Jean Photography
Canada has a long history of harm and human rights abuses against Indigenous land and water defenders who are opposing colonial expropriation and protecting their lands and waters from extractive and resource development industry projects.
Indigenous women, Two Spirit and gender diverse defenders not only experience criminalization and surveillance but also state-sanctioned sexual and gender-based violence in their attempts to preserve their lands and waters and heal their communities.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), provincial and municipal police and private security services hired by industries, have been known to routinely harass, assault and intimidate women, girls, Two-Spirit, gender diverse people and community members. Resource extraction projects are also directly tied to the expansion of ‘man camps,’ temporary extractive industry labour camps that bring an influx of transient male workers to Indigenous territories. These ‘man camps’ are associated with high rates of sexual and gender-based violence and trafficking experienced by Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ people
In 2021, Mohawk water protector Layla Staats was arrested on the first day of a militarized RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en Nation’s territory in British Columbia. Layla shared that she experienced anti-Indigenous racism and sexual and gender-based violence during her interactions with the RCMP and Canada’s criminal justice system.
The Tiny House Warriors are a Secwépemc women-led land and water defender movement that is actively opposing the Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMX) construction project and the development of nearby ‘man-camps’. In 2018, Tiny House Warrior co-founder Kanahus Manuel raised awareness of her experiences of anti-Indigenous racism and gender-based violence by ‘man camp’ workers.
In February 2021, Indigenous youth land and water defenders called the Braided Warriors engaged in a peaceful sit-in and ceremony in front of the AIG Insurance office in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Warriors were peacefully demanding that AIG Insurance stop insuring TMX. Vancouver’s Police Department (VPD) officers violently removed the Warriors from the premises and arrested them.
Despite the Calls for Justice made in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, that request the urgent safety of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ people, only 2 of the 231 Calls for Justice have been implemented by the Government of Canada in the last four years. The proposed 2021 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan has no clear implementation strategy to date.
All the while, Indigenous women, 2SLGBTQIA+ people and defenders are still going missing and being murdered.
Call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc to respect the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples and protect Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQIA+ land and water defenders through urgent compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Calls for Justice outlined in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and recommendations highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.