Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Police Were Ready to Shoot Indigenous Pipeline Protesters in Canada, Documents Reveal

Energy
First Nations Pipeline Protest: 14 Land Protectors Arrested as Canadian Police Raid Indigenous Camp

Canadian police discussed shooting indigenous protesters who were trying to stop a natural gas pipeline from being built on their land, documents reported by The Guardian Friday revealed.


On Jan. 7, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) armed with assault rifles arrested 14 land defenders when they cleared a checkpoint set up by the Wet'suwet'en nation to stop construction of the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline on their unceded territory in northern British Columbia (B.C.). Now, the documents obtained by The Guardian show that, in a strategy session before the raid to clear the road, RCMP argued that "lethal overwatch is req'd," meaning they wanted to use snipers.

RCMP higher-ups also told their officers to "use as much violence toward the gate as you want." Police were ready to arrest both children and grandparents, and one document mentioned the possibility of sending children to social services. Historically, the RCMP forcibly removed indigenous children from their homes to place them in residential schools.

"Here we are, nearly 2020 and we are still being threatened with violence, death, and the removal of our children for simply existing on our lands and following our laws," Sleydo', or Molly Wickham, a spokesperson for the Gidimt'en Checkpoint protesters who was arrested herself in January, said in a statement reported by The Georgia Straight.

Coastal GasLink is owned by TC Energy, the company formerly known as TransCanada Pipelines, which is also the driving force behind the Keystone XL pipeline opposed by indigenous groups in both the U.S. and Canada. CGL is set to run 670 kilometers (approximately 416 miles) from northeastern B.C. to a liquid natural gas facility in Kitimat that is yet to be constructed.

The company gained permission from elected First Nation councils along the pipeline route, but the hereditary Wet'suwet'en leaders oppose pipeline construction on their land. Since the Wet'suwet'en never surrendered their territories to the Canadian government, they argue that their hereditary leaders should have final say.

"This project aims to blaze a trail, in what has been envisioned as an energy corridor through some of the only pristine areas left in this entire region," a Wet'suwet'en media statement explained. "If CGL were to be built and become operational, it would irreversibly transform the ecology and character of Northern B.C. This is why the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs have all unanimously opposed the construction of ALL pipelines through their territory."

The Wet'suwet'en first established a camp called Unist'ot'en in 2009 to fight pipelines in their territory, The Guardian explained. It was the first in a growing movement of indigenous encampments protesting fossil fuel infrastructure in North America. The indigenous nation is now waiting for a provincial supreme court to decide on an injunction sought by TC Energy that would ban indigenous protesters from blocking access to any pipeline construction sites.

The RCMP documents obtained by The Guardian led Canadian officials to voice concerns over the role the police play in clashes between fossil fuel companies and indigenous land defenders.

"There are a number of very deeply concerning words, phrases and terms used to a situation that is immensely delicate," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Friday, as CBC News reported. "This is something that we need to revise as a government and take a look at that, because the terminology is entirely unacceptable."

In another document reviewed by The Guardian, the police also said they needed to arrest demonstrators for the goal of "sterilizing the site."

RCMP Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said in a statement reported by CBC News that the police had been denied a request to review the documents, but said some of the phrases may have been taken out of context. The term "lethal overwatch," in particular, does not necessarily mean that police snipers would be deployed to shoot at protesters. They are often deployed to ensure public safety during parades and demonstrations.

"Police officers who occupy the position of lethal overwatch are tasked with observing, while other police officers are engaged in other duties which occupy attention," Shoihet said.

But indigenous leaders and their supporters questioned who the police, who cleared the site on the strength of a B.C. Supreme Court injunction obtained by TC Energy, are ultimately protecting. The protesters' lawyer Martin Peters said the police had acted as "security guards" for the company.

"I was shocked," Wet'suwet'an hereditary chief Hagwilnegh, also called Ron Mitchell, told CBC News. "[The RCMP] assured us that they were there to protect everyone, including us. That was the message we received from them. The question that comes to mind is, who are the RCMP working for? They weren't nice to our people, especially the elders."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heat waves are most dangerous for older people and those with health problems. Global Jet / Flickr / CC by 2.0

On hot days in New York City, residents swelter when they're outside and in their homes. The heat is not just uncomfortable. It can be fatal.

Read More Show Less
Nearly 250 U.S. oil and gas companies are expected to file for bankruptcy by the end of next year. Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

Fracking companies are going bankrupt at a rapid pace, often with taxpayer-funded bonuses for executives, leaving harm for communities, taxpayers, and workers, the New York Time reports.

Read More Show Less
Trump introduces EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler during an event to announce changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Jan. 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. The changes would make it easier for federal agencies to approve infrastructure projects without considering climate change. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

A report scheduled for release later Tuesday by Congress' non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Trump administration undervalues the costs of the climate crisis in order to push deregulation and rollbacks of environmental protections, according to The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, voiced support for safe reopening measures. www.vperemen.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA

By Kristen Fischer

It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.

Read More Show Less
Critics charge the legislation induces poor communities to sell off their water rights. Pexels

By Eoin Higgins

Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.

Read More Show Less
People enjoy outdoor dining along Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach, California on July 8, 2020. Keith Birmingham / MediaNews Group / Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

California is reversing its reopening plans amidst a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A protest against the name of the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Nov. 2, 2014. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.

Read More Show Less