Violence Must Not Threaten the Safety and Rights of Land Defenders and Matriarchs Holding Ceremony and Protecting the Sacred Wedzin Kwa Headwaters

Statement
October 15, 2020

Violence Must Not Threaten the Safety and Rights of Land Defenders and Matriarchs Holding Ceremony and Protecting the Sacred Wedzin Kwa Headwaters

((Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C. – October 15, 2020) On October 13, 2020, Coastal GasLink called in the RCMP to remove a group of Wet’suwet’en women and community members who are holding ceremony at a proposed drill site for Coastal Gaslink’s pipeline.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) stands in solidarity with the Indigenous land defenders who are protecting the Wedzin Kwa, the river that sustains and gives life to their Nation, from test drilling. These land defenders are lawfully exercising their right to steward their unceded territories and strengthen their cultural ties to their lands through the sacred responsibility of prayer, smudging, and ceremony. The presence of the RCMP and the threat they represent – surveillance, intimidation, arrest, discrimination, and violence – undermines the authority and self-determination of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs who have full jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en lands. Indigenous land defenders and community members cannot be criminalized and targeted for asserting their Title and Rights and conducting ceremonial and cultural traditions; this stands in acute opposition to the provincial government’s obligations under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

Given the forthcoming provincial election and renewed statements from political leaders regarding the importance of reconciliation and advancing Indigenous relations, it is worrisome that systemic violations of fundamental Indigenous and human rights continue to occur over major energy projects such as the CGL pipeline and the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX). Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the myriad of additional challenges First Nations are facing, the Province can no longer afford to deem industrial projects like the CGL pipeline and the TMX as essential services and adopt a “business as usual” approach. The health and safety of Indigenous communities must be prioritized.

UBCIC does not support or condone violence of any form, and we remain deeply committed to the recognition and implementation of the Title and Rights of all Indigenous peoples in Canada. We are heartened to stand in solidarity with all Nations who working together to ensure Canada and B.C. uphold the UN Declaration and work to stop any violent or discriminatory practices against peaceful land defenders. As such, UBCIC supports the peaceful resolution of the ongoing standoff between RCMP and Wet’suwet’en land defenders through open dialogue and the respecting of Wet’suwet’en authority and laws. 

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Media inquiries:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of UBCIC: (250-490-5314)
Chief Don Tom, Vice-President of UBCIC: (604-290-6083)
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of UBCIC: (c/o 604-842-2977)

UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

For more information please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca

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