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.
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 for blocking access to a pipeline construction site.
Wet’suwet’en leaders are concerned that further human rights violations and arrests will take place if the company tries to resume drilling this summer. Land defenders are trying to protect the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River)—a major source of clean drinking water on the territory and spawning ground to critically endangered wild salmon.
Coastal Gaslink, the company building the pipeline, was granted an injunction to remove protestors in 2019. The RCMP are empowered to enforce injunctions and have arrested Wet’suwet’en land defenders and supporters on three sperate occasions.
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada as the traditional authorities of the Nation. They have not consented to the pipeline, yet Canadian authorities have ignored their concerns. All Wet’suwet’en have the right to decide what forms of economic development should take place on their traditional lands according to Wet’suwet’en laws and customs.
The right to self-determination is one of the underlying principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples. Both Canada and British Columbia have adopted legislation to implement the Declaration.
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 urges Canada to:
• Immediately cease construction of the pipeline until free, prior, informed consent is obtained from all Wet’suwet’en people.
• Immediately cease forced eviction of Wet’suwet’en people from the territory.
• Guarantee the right to peaceful assembly.
• Prevent and investigate allegations of surveillance, harassment, arbitrary detention and excessive use of force against demonstrators by the RCMP, police and security forces.
• Meet with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.
Canada has so far failed to comply with these requests. Meanwhile, leaders say another wave of arrests could result in serious human rights volations.
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.