Amnesty International Canada

Respect Indigenous rights on Wet’suwet’en territory

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Photo: Yintah Access, Media Centre (used by permission)

Amnesty International is extremely concerned about the violation of Indigenous peoples’ rights and the arrests of peaceful land defenders on Wet’suwet’en territory. For the third time in three years, the RCMP have arrested land defenders protecting the territory from an unwanted gas pipeline.

On November 18 and 19, 2021, twenty-nine Indigenous people supporters and journalists were arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Wet’suwet’en territory in Northwest British Columbia, Canada. More arrests followed.

The RCMP made the arrests while enforcing a Supreme Court of British Columbia injunction order obtained by the company Coastal Gaslink. The RCMP enforced the injunction order to remove people from a blockade to prevent drilling under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River)—a major source of clean drinking water for the communities on the territory and spawning ground to critically endangered wild salmon.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs – the traditional authorities of the Nation – have never consented to the Coastal Gaslink pipeline project, yet Canadian authorities have disregarded their right to self-determination and allowed the project to proceed without their consent. In September, they expressed their opposition to the company’s plans to drill under the river. In addition to the violation of their rights that has taken place and is ongoing, they are concerned about the risks the pipeline poses to their economic, social and cultural rights, and their environment and health.

In 2019, the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) assessed Canada’s role in approving the Coastal Gaslink pipeline without free, prior, and informed (FPIC) consent of all Wet’suwet’en people.

The Committee called upon and urged Canada to:

• immediately halt the construction and suspend all permits and approvals for the construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline in the traditional and unceded lands and territories of the Wet’suwet’en people, until they grant their FPIC, following the full and adequate discharge of the duty to consult;
• immediately cease forced eviction of Wet’suwet’en peoples;
• guarantee that no force will be used against the Wet’suwet’en peoples; and
• withdraw RCMP and associated security and policing services from their traditional lands.

Canada failed to take these actions. The deployment in November 2021 of yet more heavily armed police to the territory, leading to arrests and increased tensions, represents a blatant disregard for the recommendation of the CERD.

Call on the Minister of Public Safety, Mark Mendicino, and BC Premier John Horgan to comply with the CERD decision and to respect Wet’suwet’en title and rights.



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