Get Out, Stay Out
An open letter signed by upwards of a hundred Canadian academics calls for the RCMP to leave Wet'suwet'en lands and not come back.
The Wet'suwet'en lands are sovereign territory. The band has never yielded its sovereignty and the Supreme Court said as much.
This is a problem that's been around since British Columbia entered Confederation. One of the side deals between Ottawa and Victoria provided that native land claims would remain under provincial control. Ottawa was happy enough to leave British Columbia first nations to the whim of the colonists.
For decades the problem remained in abeyance. Treaties were not negotiated, sovereignty remained unceded. The Wet'suwet'en and other nations continued much as they had long before Europeans came to the land. And now we see the result as energy companies, with the backing of governments and the RCMP, ignore first nations' rights.
What makes the current standoff so much worse is that the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs agreed to a route for the Coastal GasLink pipeline but the company insists on a different route that crosses territory the band wants protected.Supporters of hereditary chiefs can point to the Supreme Court of Canada case Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, which found the nation’s hereditary leadership has jurisdiction over its traditional territory, as justification for their efforts to block the pipeline. But, because the company was issued permits by the province, the B.C. Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an injunction that the RCMP is using to clear Indigenous people from their land to allow construction to continue.
So far, dozens have been arrested and removed from the territory just as the conflict enters a new phase — one driven by economic pressures colliding with Indigenous rights — as the over-budget pipeline’s construction approaches the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River). The company plans to drill under the river, which is an important water source that provides clean drinking water and is a spawning ground for salmon.
B.C. signed into law its Declaration Act mandating the province align its laws with UNDRIP in November 2019, months before the last major flare-up over Coastal GasLink. Similarly, in June, Canada formally approved its version of the declaration act, which “requires” the federal government to “take all measures necessary to ensure the laws of Canada are consistent with [UNDRIP].”