Avant Garde | MARCH 2022 | Volume 2, Issue 3
DOWNLOAD THE FULL ISSUE HERE
LINCOLN ALEXANDER SCHOOL OF LAW
IN THIS ISSUE:
1 | Protecting the Yintah: Wet'suwet'en Land Defenders vs RCMP
2 | Brand Protection in the Metaverse
3 | Hermes v. Mason Rothschild, “MetaBirkins”
4 | Bill 27: Ontario’s Earnest Effort to Empower Workers
6 | 2022 Olympic Games: Court of Arbitration for Sport Steps
7 |"Kane" you believe this: a deep dive on the controversial Evander Kane
8 | 2021 at the Supreme Court of Canada
9 | NDA Reform and recalling the roots of #METOO#METOO
10 | Stopping Preventable Deaths: Canada’s Response to COVID-19 in Correctional Facilities
11 | Ontario’s Accommodations Problem
12 | Information Overload – When Access No Longer Serves Us
13 | Lincoln Alexander School of Law – Work from Home Edition
14 | Creating a Lincoln legacy through Community Service
15 | Navigating the Legal World as a South Asian
17 | LegalTech Spotlight: Alexsei
Protecting the Yintah: Wet'suwet'en Land Defenders vs RCMP
BY MIRA SETIA, 2L, Editor-In-Chief
Since time immemorial, Wet'suwet'en territory has been called “yintah”, which is a Wet'suwet'en expression meaning “earth” or “land”; but more specially “territory”. The connection this British Columbian Indigenous community has to their land and the Wedzin Kwa River is traditional and sacred. However, this relationship is being threatened by TC Energy’s oil pipeline and the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP).
Since 2019, tensions have been high in the Wet'suwet'en territory in Northwest British Columbia due to the federal government’s Coastal GasLink pipeline (“pipeline”) project. If completed, the pipeline would carry two billion cubic feet per day of fracked gas from northeastern BC to the proposed processing facility. Environmental concerns run deep at the heart of this issue; however for the Wet'suwet'en peoples, this conflict is much grander as it is about Indigenous sacred land and sovereignty. TC Energy claims it has received the necessary permits and approvals to build their pipeline, but the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs have not approved of this. Rather, the Wet'suwet'en nation opposes the pipeline project, as it threatens the sanctity of their natural resources and territory; and the lack of consent threatens Wet'suwet'en sovereignty. As a result, this conflict has led to months of land defender protests, court injunctions, RCMP involvement and a Canada-wide solidarity movement supporting the Wet'suwet'en peoples.
The tensions within Wet'suwet'en nation itself, between the elected and hereditary governments, have added to this dispute; as TC Energy created “benefit agreements” with elected council members and gained approval from multiple reserves within the territory. However, because the hereditary chiefs have not approved of the pipeline, Wet'suwet'en land defenders have been protesting in encampments on the pipeline’s drill pad site – which, if drilled, would invade and pollute the sacred Wedzin Kwa River – and have created blockades on various construction sites and the neighbouring Gidimt’en territory. This is all aimed to disrupt construction workers from building the pipeline.
Since political discussions have not been productive, and after this long process of injunctions and protests, the government had decided to bring their well-known tactic of use of force to the forefront. Millions of Canadian taxpayer dollars are being used to fund RCMP’s aggressive tactics and raids against Wet'suwet'en land defenders. The Wet'suwet'en territory is now being overpoliced by the RCMP in aims of removing the blockades and aiding the pipeline’s construction. Throughout this process – and in planned and executed raids in December 2021 and January 2022 – journalists, land defenders and hereditary chiefs have been met with aggression and have been arrested. The RCMP has had a difficult history with the Indigneous community; and videos of these raids and violent tactics against the Wet'suwet'en land defenders have gained international traction – in as much as to inspire nation-wide solidarity movements and protests.
Nonetheless, there are two sides to this conflict. On one hand, the federal government and TC energy and its workers are trying to complete their pipeline project safely and with cooperation. On the other hand, the Wet'suwet'en nation is trying to protect and defend their sacred land and sovereignty against environmental harm and federal intrusion. But no matter which side of this issue you stand on, one cannot deny that the abuses and raids by the RCMP cross a line, and continue on the federal government’s legacy of historical oppression and violence against the Indigenous population.
Many Indigenous communities have been silenced in the past, and continue to be systemically silenced today; but not Wet'suwet'en. The Wet'suwet'en nation will continue fighting to protect their sacred river, and their voices will continue to be heard across the country. This conflict will continue in the courts and within the territory, and we do not know what the result will be. However, we do know that the Wet'suwet'en peoples will protect their yintah by any means necessary; and Canadians across the country will support.
Anne Spice, The Language of Dispossession (2022), online: Peeps Magazine <https://peepsmagazine.ca/the-language-of-dispossession/#content_1>
iPolitics, Net Zero: Legality of RCMP Raid of Wet'suwet'en Debated (November 2021), online: iPolitics <https://ipolitics.ca/2021/11/29/net-zero-legality-of-rcmp-raid-of-wetsuweten-debated/>
Mark Armao, The Wet'suwet'en pipeline conflict is heating up. Here's why (November 2021), Online: National Observer <https://www.nationalobserver.com/2021/11/18/news/climatedesk-canada-supports-pipeline-violation-wetsuweten-law-well-its-own>