Canadian settler governments have legally recognized the importance of abiding by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Rights (UNDRIP). Last year, the B.C. Government closed out the decade with signs of hope and optimism, passing UNDRIP into law. But months later, both levels of government were found failing a major pipeline test.
The five hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en clan system, the only rightful authorities on their territory, issued eviction notices to Coastal Gaslinks pipeline, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and all security personnel. B.C. Premier John Horgan forfeited opportunities to negotiate and instead affirmed that the “rule of [colonial] law must be applied”. The RCMP were called into position to enforce a court injunction against the Wet’suwet’en to protect pipeline permits issued by the Government of B.C.
With UNDRIP, the Wet’suwet’en Chiefs’ right of free, prior, and informed consent recognizes that Indigenous governmental, legal, and political orders have existed since time immemorial, long predating the arrival of European settlers. Despite the Supreme Court of Canada’s repeated recognition of this, that Canada was not in fact terra nullius (“nobody’s land”) before European colonization, Canadian courts and legal institutions continue to enable governmental and corporate infringement on unceded Indigenous lands.
For the second winter in a row, the world watched in horror as RMCP descended onto unceded Wet’suwet’en territories in northern B.C. Indigenous women and elders faced assault rifles as the RCMP violently removed the Wet’suwet’en protectors from their own territories as they peacefully conducted ceremonies to defend their land and water from the threat of a fracked gas pipeline.
In response, solidarity actions erupted across Canada, demanding that the Governments of B.C. and Canada uphold their responsibilities to UNDRIP and Wet’suwet’en Law. The Canadian economy ground to a halt as major raillines and ports were blockaded. Numerous solidarity actions occurred locally including a march from the Tin Wis Totem to the RCMP Tofino detachment, a circle ceremony led by Nuu-chah-nulth women at the Tofino Totem, and a camp out at the Tofino-Ucluelet junction.
The sustained solidarity forced the government to send B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser and Canadian Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett to meet with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. A historic agreement was reached affirming Wet’suwet’en territorial jurisdiction, however the agreement did not resolve the pipeline conflict.