Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) speaks on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs at a press conference in the Office of the Wet’suwet’en in Smithers Jan. 7. Na’Moks said an eviction of Coastal GasLink from its work site near Houston is in effect and there will be no access without consent. (Thom Barker photo)

Hereditary chiefs call for UN intervention in CGL dispute

Hereditary chiefs have asked the UN to monitor RCMP, government and CGL actions on their territory

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are asking the United Nations to monitor RCMP, government and Coastal GasLink (CGL) actions on their territory as tensions rise in their dispute with CGL.

The request follows a recent directive from the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination (CERD) which states Canada must halt the CGL pipeline project and withdraw RCMP from our territory in order to avoid further violations of Wet’suwet’en, constitutional, and international law.

“These procedures will allow joint input from UN experts specializing in the human rights protection of Indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, the environment, and those facing forced eviction. These UN human rights experts are independent authorities who monitor compliance with international human rights obligations, including rapporteurs on housing, environment, human rights, Indigenous peoples, and racism,” the release reads.

READ MORE: RCMP create access control checkpoint on Morice West Forest Service Road

“Neither the provincial or federal governments have agreed to meet with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs to address this crisis, despite serious ongoing human rights violations, protests across Canada and international attention.”

The Interior News has reached out to the province’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser and federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous relations Carolyn Bennett for comment on the above.

The release also addressed recent comments by Premier supporting the rule of law and saying that the CGL pipeline — which has received all neccessary permits and been approved by all 20 elected First Nation councils within the territory it would go through — would continue.

The pipeline has not received consent from the hereditary chiefs and they say the chiefs who did agree to the development do not have consent to do so within the context of historical Wet’suwet’en law.

“Ignoring BC’s commitment to ratify UNDRIP into law, and specifically our right to obtain free, prior, informed consent for industrial projects through our unceded lands, John Horgan has signaled that he supports the continued construction of Coastal Gaslink. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are gravely concerned that Horgan will respond to our grievances with militarized police instead of diplomacy.”

Professor Margot Young, a constitutional law expert at UBC’s Allard School of Law also weighed in on the situation, noting that the UN’s concerns can’t simply be cast aside.

“International law is absolutely central to resolution of this situation. All levels of government are bound by treaties signed by Canada, and Canadian constitutional law is to be informed by these human rights obligations.”

Currently RCMP have increased equipment and personnel presence in the area, conducting fly-overs, drone surveillance, and foot patrols.

They have also established a roadblock at the 27 kilometre point of the Morice West Forest Service Road which the press release refers to as an exclusion zone.

“Police are demanding identification, controlling access, and plan to detain all individuals who leave our territory. Several reporters have been denied access to the area, while supply lines for food, medical supplies, and crucial winter gear are threatened,”

The RCMP have stated the checkpoint is not an exclusion zone, but have also acknowledged they reserve the right to allow people in and will be denying access to people who do not comply with a number of demands, including providing identification and their names to the RCMP officer in charge.

“The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are title holders and govern access to our traditional lands. By trespassing on Wet’suwet’en traditional lands, CGL has infringed on Canadian and international law and has compromised sites central to the spiritual and cultural well-being of Wet’suwet’en people.

“The Chiefs’ weekend submission to the UN highlights the imminent threat posed by the RCMP and security forces currently surrounding Wet’suwet’en villages and lands. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs urge Canada to comply with UN directives that Canada withdraw RCMP, halt Coastal Gaslink, and seek free, prior, and informed consent for any development occurring on our lands.”

Meanwhile, supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs recently set up an additional support station just outside of Gidimt’en checkpoint at approximatley the 39 kilometre point of the Morice West Forest Service Road near Houston.

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