Smithers (BC) – Jan 13, 2020: Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have submitted a formal request to the United Nations to monitor RCMP, government and Coastal GasLink (CGL) actions on our traditional, unceded territory. This request follows the recent directive from the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination (CERD) requiring Canada to halt the CGL pipeline project and withdraw RCMP from our territory in order to avoid further violations of Wet’suwet’en, constitutional, and international law.
This weekend, the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs invoked special communication procedures of the UN Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights. These procedures will allow joint input from UN experts specializing in the human rights protection of Indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, the environment, and those facing forced eviction. These UN human rights experts are independent authorities who monitor compliance with international human rights obligations, including rapporteurs on housing, environment, human rights, Indigenous peoples, and racism.
Neither the provincial or federal governments have agreed to meet with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs to address this crisis, despite serious ongoing human rights violations, protests across Canada and international attention.
Ignoring BC’s commitment to ratify UNDRIP into law, and specifically our right to obtain free, prior, informed consent for industrial projects through our unceded lands, John Horgan has signaled that he supports the continued construction of Coastal Gaslink. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are gravely concerned that Horgan will respond to our grievances with militarized police instead of diplomacy.
Professor Margot Young, a constitutional law expert at UBC’s Allard School of Law, states: “International law is absolutely central to resolution of this situation. All levels of government are bound by treaties signed by Canada, and Canadian constitutional law is to be informed by these human rights obligations. United Nations concerns are not to be lightly cast aside.”
RCMP have increased equipment and personnel presence in the area, conducting fly-overs, drone surveillance, and foot patrols. They have restricted helicopter access to the area and established an “exclusion zone”, blocking roads into Wet’suwet’en villages and denying entry to Wet’suwet’en people. Police are demanding identification, controlling access, and plan to detain all individuals who leave our territory. Several reporters have been denied access to the area, while supply lines for food, medical supplies, and crucial winter gear are threatened.
The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are title holders and govern access to our traditional lands. By trespassing on Wet’suwet’en traditional lands, CGL has infringed on Canadian and international law and has compromised sites central to the spiritual and cultural well-being of Wet’suwet’en people.
The Chiefs’ weekend submission to the UN highlights the imminent threat posed by the RCMP and security forces currently surrounding Wet’suwet’en villages and lands. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs urge Canada to comply with UN directives that Canada withdraw RCMP, halt Coastal Gaslink, and seek free, prior, and informed consent for any development occurring on our lands.
Media Coordinator, Jennifer Wickham, Gidimt’en Clan:
(778) 210 – 0067
Professor Margot Young, Allard School of Law, UBC