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Unist’ot’en calls for protection of healing centre as injunction enforced

Unist’ot’en photo

As the RCMP enforce a Supreme Court injunction removing those blockading Morice West Forest Service Road and those inside an RCMP ‘exclusion zone,’ the Unist’ot’en are demanding some leeway.

“Unist’ot’en demands the RCMP will not evict the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre,” according to a statement on the Unist’ot’en website. “The RCMP has no jurisdiction to enter the healing centre without our free, prior, and informed consent. Even under colonial law, the RCMP cannot enter or search our healing centre without a warrant … International public support is called for to ensure the safety of the healing centre. People living and receiving treatment there are not in violation of Coastal GasLink’s injunction, nor is the healing centre itself in violation of the injunction.”

Due to spikes being left on the Morice West Forest Service Road, which have rendered some RCMP vehicles inoperable, police have moved the the access control point of its ‘exclusion zone,’ from the 27km mark of the road to the four kilometre mark, a move the Unist’ot’en call illegal.

“The exclusion zone has been created by the RCMP to force Wet’suwet’en land defenders off our land,” reads the Unist’ot’en website. “It is a colonial and criminalizing tool to illegally and arbitrarily extend RCMP authority onto our lands. The massive exclusion zone, completely under RCMP authoritarian discretion, falls outside the injunction area. Chiefs and wet’suwet’en people are illegally being denied access to their own territories.”

The 27 km point had been designated as a protest and media site, and includes a warming centre that has been used by those at the location as a structure for warmth.

Police say actions by people at the warming centre and a blockade of parked vehicles, the access control checkpoint was temporarily moved to the four-kilometre mark of the Morice West Forest Service Road on Friday

Those who decided to remain in the warming centre were told they would have to leave or be arrested for breaching the court-ordered injunction. They were given the option to remain at the four-kilometre mark, at the new access control checkpoint.

Saturday morning, those remaining at the 27 km mark without vehicles were offered safe transportation to the four-kilometre mark. Several people declined, and instead, walked out on foot along the Morice West Forest Service Road. They were later picked up by officers and hereditary chiefs on site, and were safely transported to the new checkpoint.

Several people who remained in the warming centre barricaded themselves inside, some using chains in an effort to prevent their arrest, say police. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, 11 individuals were arrested, all for breaching the injunction order.

Unist’ot’en is outraged over the use of excessive force by the RCMP, including the unnecessary use of heavily armed tactical teams deployed by helicopters to surround Gidimt’en camp at 44 km, use of snipers, and deployment of K9 units. We know that in January 2019, RCMP were authorized to use genocidal lethal force, arrest children and grandparents, and apprehend Wet’suwet’en children in response to our peaceful presence on our lands.

Throughout the enforcement of CGL’s injunction, media and legal observers were illegally corralled and threatened with detention and arrest for doing their jobs. Freedom of the press is protected under Canadian law but journalists were prevented from documenting the RCMP militarized raids on Gidimt’en territories. The RCMP attempted to evict residents from Chief Woos’s cabin. The RCMP and Coastal GasLink also partially dismantled Gidimt’en camp infrastructure and property. This property belongs to the Gidimt’en Clan and the RCMP has no legal authority to destroy it.

On February 8, the exclusion zone was illegally expanded from the 27 KM to the 4 KM mark, and now encompasses the majority of Gidimt’en territory. As a result, eleven people including legal observers were illegally arrested from the 27 km cabin. The exclusion zone has been created by the RCMP to force Wet’suwet’en land defenders off ourland. It is a colonial and criminalizing tool to illegally and arbitrarily extend RCMP authority onto our lands. The massive exclusion zone, completely under RCMP authoritarian discretion, falls outside the injunction area. Chiefs and Wet’suwet’en people are illegally being denied access to their own territories.

We urge Canada to adhere to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) directives and to halt the Coastal Gaslink project, seek Free, Prior, and Informed Consent from the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, withdraw RCMP from our territories and ensure that no lethal weapons or force be used to forcibly evict Wet’suwet’en people from our lands.

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