A Gidimt’en member who made headlines last year when she filed a lawsuit against Coastal GasLink (CGL) and two other companies for the destruction of the Gidimt’en checkpoint camp in January is throwing her weight behind Mike Sawyer, Green Party candidate for Skeena-Bulkley Valley.
“If you consider yourself a citizen of this community, if you consider yourself somebody who cares about the climate, who cares about the environment and who cares about justice for Indigenous people, vote Mike Sawyer,” said Molly Wickham in a video that was posted to Sawyer’s campaign website and Facebook page Wednesday.
In the video, Wickham mentioned she normally does not participate in “colonial politics,” instead preferring to focus her energy on Wet’suwet’en governance, but that she is making the endorsement because she feels it’s a critical time.
“I believe that Mike Sawyer for the Green Party has great potential to make hard decisions to tell the hard truths about our reality and to support Indigenous communities.
“The Wet’suwet’en, we have been struggling with LNG coming through and forcing their way through our territories. Mike Sawyer has been very vocal about his opposition to LNG projects, has been very vocal about his support for Indigenous communities, Indigenous sovereignty and our rights to defend our territories.”
Wickham said she believes these issues are critical, especially compounded with the climate crisis facing the Earth.
“I believe that these issues are critical at this time when we’re facing … the depletion and the near extinction of our salmon stocks coming into our territories where there’s so many threats to these territories that help us all survive.
“We need somebody who’s not afraid to stand up and tell the truth — we need somebody who’s not afraid to work with the Indigenous people.”
Sawyer said he was humbled by the endorsement.
“I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured that someone of Molly’s stature in the community would consider endorsing me and the Green Party.”
Sawyer has previously been very vocal about his support for both Indigenous rights and title and basing reconciliation framework on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“We see governments paying a lot of lip service to this notion of reconciliation and title and support for UNDRIP and other aspects of this and yet when we have a situation like we have with CGL … whenever the interests of the government and the interest of multinational corporations are at stake, all of the talk about reconciliation goes out the window.
“We have a complete disconnect between what we want to say … versus how we actually behave and we have to align our behaviour with what we’re saying we believe.”
In terms of Indigenous rights and title, Sawyer said he believes that Indigenous groups have a sovereign right to their lands, noting the question is not just one of practicality, but of legality and morality as well.
“Most of the Indigenous communities and leaders of those communities that I’ve talked to — I don’t think they have an expectation that they’re suddenly going to own all of this land, what they want is to have title to some portion of the land,” Sawyer said, adding his own feelings about sovereign rights in the case of unceded Indigenous territories.
“I think technically if you want to drill right down to the legal and constitutional essence of it, yes they probably do have title to that land.”
Sawyer is well known in the northern B.C. environmental scene, where he has been involved in multiple complaints with the National Energy Board (NEB) over proposed pipeline developments.
Most recently, on July 26 the NEB disagreed with a legal challenge Sawyer made that TC Energy’s 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline from the northeast of B.C. to Kitimat falls under federal jurisdiction.
Sawyer has previously told The Interior News he will not be appealing the NEB decision, but remains opposed to both LNG and CGL.
“If it could be demonstrated that LNG was in the public interest, I would support it,” he said. “I don’t support it because I don’t believe it is in the public interest and no one’s demonstrated to me that it is.”