RCMP planning mass arrests of indigenous Unist’ot’en activists under Bill C-51: Reports
Canadian rights defenders are warning that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is planning to conduct mass arrests of members of the indigenous Unist’ot’en First Nation who are camping at the Unist’ot’en Camp.
The Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northwestern British Columbia established the camp in 2010 to protest the planned Chevron Pacific Trail natural gas pipeline and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs sounded the alarm bells about the planned RCMP attack via a press release issued Thursday.
“The Indigenous Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northwestern BC are on high alert about a likely impending large scale RCMP mass arrest operation on their territory,” the press release stated. “The RCMP have made a number of visits to the Unist’ot’en as well as other First Nations leadership regarding the Unist’ot’en community’s active exercise of their Aboriginal Title and Rights to protect their lands from oil and gas development.”
Over 100 concerned groups and individuals have issued a letter expressing solidarity with the Unist’ot’en. The letter, which was addressed to the RCMP, federal government and BC provincial government, also denounced the government’s plan to “interfere in the rights of the Unist’ot’en to occupy, manage or maintain their lands.”
“We are deeply and gravely concerned to learn from a variety of sources that the RCMP appear to be on the verge of executing a highly provocative and dangerously reckless operational plan to make arrests,” said the letter, titled, “We Stand with the Unist’ot’en“. “We support the inherent and constitutional rights of the Unist’ot’en to govern and protect their traditional territories in accordance with their laws. We expect any and all actions taken by the federal and provincial government, industry and policing agencies to be consistent with the Unist’ot’en Declaration and the jurisdiction of the Unist’ot’en Clan.”
The letter’s signatories include: BC Assembly of First Nations, Blue Mountain Métis Nation, Idle No More, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Council of Canadians, Greenpeace Canada, Elizabeth May, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, and Maude Barlow.
“The courageous stand taken by the Unist’ot’en and their supporters must not be criminalized by the RCMP nor targeted by government,” said Barlow, the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “Through the draconian Bill C51, the federal government is attempting to brand people defending the land and water as ‘security threats.’ The Unist’ot’en are heroes, while the real threat is this government destroying the planet and economy.”
A recent secret RCMP report conjures the spectre of threats posed First Nations, environmentalists and other groups opposed to Canada’s increasing reliance on fossil fuels. According to documents obtained by the Toronto Star through Access to Information requests, the RCMP has also used fake profiles to monitor activists’ activities on social media platforms such as Facebook.
The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has also denounced the RCMP’s planned attack.
“We are deeply concerned that such an approach would be disastrous and would not respect the constitutionally-protected Title and Rights of the Unist’ot’en, as well as their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said the organization in a letter addressed to the RCMP. “In their activities, the police, as agents of the Crown, must be respectful of the constitutional rights of First Nations in relation to their traditional territories.”
The BCCLA pointed out that recent Supreme Court of Canada rulings, including the case of Gisday’wa and Delgamuukw v. British Columbia,  and Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, , recognize that “Aboriginal Title includes the right to use, manage, possess land, and to decide how the land will be used”.
When Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015, was tabled in Parliament this spring, leading rights organizations warned that the legislation transform the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s main spy agency, into a dictatorship-style secret police force. They also argued that C-51 would give the spy agency and “no less than 17 government agencies,” including the RCMP, the power to disrupt protests and other acts of legitimate dissent in the name of combating threats to Canada’s national security. Thousands of Canadians joined the call through massive protests in Ottawa and other cities across the country. The call was disregarded.
The Conservative-dominated House of Commons passed Bill C-51 in May with the full support of the Justin Trudeau Liberals. The official opposition New Democrats, Greens, Bloc Quebecois and independent MPs voted against the bill. The unelected and corrupt Senate rubber-stamped Bill C-51 by a vote of 44 to 28 last month.
Is Big Oil behind the RCMP’s planned action against the Unist’ot’en blockade? According to the Smithers Interior News, TransCanada Inc. recently reported Unist’ot’en protesters to the RCMP after the activists barred the company’s workers from entering Wet’suwet’en land.
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