On January 11 protesters gathered at the doors to the Canadian Consulate General office building for a demonstration in downtown Seattle against the displacement and abuse of the Wet’suwet’en people at Unist’ot’en Camp in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Chants of “We stand with Wet’suwet’en!” and “You cannot have justice on stolen land!” reached up to the offices of the consulate, first from the sidewalk and then from the streets, as demonstrators moved to occupy the busy intersections on either side of the consulate offices. Five demonstrators were arrested, including two who were hospitalized due to injuries inflicted by Seattle police during their arrest.
The protests come in the wake of a raid by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers on the Unist’ot’en Camp, located on unceded land belonging to the Wet’suwet’en people. 14 people are reported to have been arrested on January 7 in a brazen violation of article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which explicitly forbids the forcible removal of Indigenous people from their land.
The camp sits on the intersection of three different proposed pipelines, centered on a cabin built on the exact location of the proposed pipeline corridors, on the traditional territory of the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en people. The ecologically disastrous pipeline projects would ship Tar Sands bitumen to the coast, as well as liquid natural gas obtained through hydrofracturing, otherwise known as fracking, which would consume prodigious amounts of water and involves the use of hundreds of dangerous chemicals that pollute the land and water table.
TransCanada subsidiary Coastal GasLink is attempting to force through the completion of the project, claiming to have reached an agreement with all Indigenous people along the planned pipeline route. Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, who exercise the exclusive right to make such decisions on the people’s behalf according to traditional Wet’suwet’en governance, maintain that no such deal has been reached. Although Coastal GasLink has secured permission from the Nation’s elected band councils to proceed, the Hereditary Chiefs have repeatedly and unanimously opposed the construction of any new pipeline through their territory.
On the basis of this agreement with the band councils, TransCanada is pushing its legal claim to proceed with construction. On December 14, 2018 the company was granted an injunction by the Supreme Court of British Columbia ordering the checkpoints guarding the entrance to Unist’ot’en camp to be cleared. RCMP constables made their arrests on the basis of this injunction.
TransCanada and the Coastal GasLink subsidiary have dug in for a protracted legal battle, but the Wet’suwet’en and their supporters have pledged to continue the struggle against environmental catastrophe, cultural erasure and corporate greed until victory is won.