From Turtle Island to Palestine, Colonialism is a Crime: Solidarity with Indigenous Land Defenders Under Attack #AllOutForWedzinKwa

Images: Yintah Access website

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses its strongest solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people’s struggle to defend their territory from Canadian settler colonialism and the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and urges action and solidarity to free detained land defenders and break the RCMP siege of Indigenous land. We stand in solidarity with all Indigenous struggles for liberation, sovereignty and self-determination in the face of settler colonialism, we salute Indigenous resistance, and we demand the immediate release of Sleydo’ Molly Wickham and all detained land defenders and journalists.

Palestinian writer Khaled Barakat says:

“The Palestinian struggle and Indigenous struggles in North America are, in many ways, one struggle, because we are fighting the same enemy. We are fighting for the cause of justice, self determination and freedom. There will never be justice in North America or in Palestine without the victory of Indigenous people and the assurance of their inalienable rights to self-determination, sovereignty and liberation. The same companies that exploit the land and steal natural resources, exploit impoverished workers, are the same companies stealing the natural gas of the Palestinian people for the benefit of the Zionist occupation. If the camp of the imperialists, the oppressors, the exploiters, are united, then the natural response of the oppressed peoples and communities is to be united in an international, indigenous popular front for liberation.

Racist Stephen Harper was just dining with Zionists in Montreal to raise funds for NGO Monitor and B’nai Brith to attack Palestinian organizations and communities, while at the same time, the RCMP was being sent in to attack Indigenous land and water defenders, approved of by a provincial NDP government and a federal Liberal government. In a way, Canada is ‘greater Israel.’”

On 18 and 19 November, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stormed the Gidimt’en camp on the Wedzin Kwa (Morice) River, arresting land and water defenders alongside journalists who were covering the Gidimt’en eviction of Coastal GasLink. Among those arrested was Sleydo’ Molly Wickham, a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en checkpoint, as was Jocey Alec, daughter of Hereditary Dini ze’ (Chief) Woos and 13 others, including journalists Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano.

On 19 November, the RCMP stormed the homes and cabins set up by unarmed Indigenous women with canine units and snipers, breaking down the door to a Tiny House with an axe. The arrested land defenders and journalists were transferred to Smithers and then Prince George. Earlier, on 18 November, the RCMP also detained land defenders, journalists and legal observers, who were released the following day. In all cases, the arrestees have been accused of “breaches of the injunction” in place at the hands of Coastal GasLink, despite the fact that these arrests — and the injunction — are taking place on the unceded Indigenous land of the Wet’suwet’en people.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) stated:

We are absolutely outraged that the Province of BC authorized a military-style raid on peaceful land defenders in order to allow Coastal GasLink (CGL) to build their Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) pipeline, while much of the Province is suffering from life-threatening, catastrophic flooding related events. The Province of BC continues to pretend that LNG can be clean energy and is a so-called ‘transition fuel’ when we know that LNG production carries critical environmental and health risks and is a non-renewable source of energy that requires incredibly large amounts of our precious water. Prioritizing fossil fuel expansion while British Columbians grapple with a climate emergency is an alarming, criminal and incredibly poor decision by Premier Horgan and Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. We are calling on BC and Canada to recognize and uphold Indigenous Title and Rights, including the right to self-determination, and institute a moratorium on fossil fuel expansion in the wake of clear and present climate catastrophe.

The raids followed the 14 November action of the Gidimt’en clan to evict Coastal GasLink from their territory. The Gidimt’en members are acting to enforce the eviction notice served to Coastal GasLink in 2020 by the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, which has been entirely ignored to date. The Gidimt’en members gave CGL workers eight hours to evacuate the area before they closed the main road into their territory. Despite the Gidimt’en members clearly conveying their eviction to Coastal GasLink, the company did not inform employees, with workers later telling journalists that they would have left had they known of the Indigenous eviction.

Under Wet’suwet’en law, all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have refused all pipeline proposals and have not consented to Coastal GasLink’s work or presence on Wet’suwet’en land. Further, they have held firm on their clear demand that the Wedzin Kwa River must not be drilled under for a pipeline:

The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs represent a governance system that predates colonization and the Indian Act which was created in an attempt to outlaw Indigenous peoples from their lands.

The Wet’suwet’en have continued to exercise their unbroken, unextinguished, and unceded right to govern and occupy their lands by continuing and empowering the clan-based governance system to this day. Under Wet’suwet’en law, clans have a responsibility and right to control access to their territories….Will the entire region be overtaken by the fracking industry, or will Indigenous people asserting their sovereignty be successful in repelling the assault on their homelands?

Even Canadian settler colonial law has upheld the rights of the Wet’suwet’en people on their territories, and it has also been blatantly flouted by the RCMP, as affirmed in the Gidimt’en Camp press release:

“The 1997 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa court case affirmed that Aboriginal title – the right to exclusively use and occupy land – has never been extinguished across 55,000km2 of Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan territories. Despite this, in 2019 and again in 2020, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have trespassed onto Wet’suwet’en territory and undertaken a series of militarized assaults, enacting violent arrests and following the orders of fossil fuel behemoth TC Energy.”

In addition, the RCMP again set up an exclusion zone against journalists despite just being defeated in court on this same issue for its use of an exclusion zone to block media coverage of the Fairy Creek logging blockade, while entering the two Wet’suwet’en properties without warrants, all allegedly in the service of enforcing an injunction on behalf of a private corporation. Further, this took place while much of the province is suffering from disastrous flooding, mudslides and dangerous weather conditions that led to road closures and washouts, heavily linked to the climate crisis.

Indigenous peoples throughout Turtle Island have faced ongoing settler colonial genocide and crimes against humanity at the hands of the Canadian state, including forced displacement, residential school genocide, containment on reservations, colonial gendered violence against Indigenous women and girls, restrictions on movement, and colonial expropriation and land theft. The land and water defenders resisting the pipeline are part of hundreds of years of Indigenous resistance and struggle.

As an international, Arab and Palestinian movement in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners struggling for freedom, we recognize the deep connections between the experiences of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island and of the indigenous Palestinian people.

Palestinians and Indigenous peoples continue to be subjected to settler colonial violence, in various forms, at the hands of European colonial forces that continue to the present day, and continue to resist that colonialism through all means of struggle. The Palestinian national liberation movement, in its internationalist and anti-imperialist approach, has always stood hand in hand with liberation movements around the world, throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America, and with the Indigenous and Native peoples of North America resisting settler colonialism in the heart of imperialist domination. There is a lengthy history on Turtle Island of joint struggle and mutual solidarity between Palestinian and Indigenous organizations and communities, building a common framework for collective liberation.

The same Canadian state responsible for the ongoing genocide and settler colonial project targeting Indigenous nations and peoples has also been one of the earliest and strongest supporters of Zionist settler colonialism in Palestine. Lester Pearson of Canada chaired the UN committee recommending the partition of Palestine. Indeed, the Canadian state’s mechanism for the expansion of settler colonialism and control of Indigenous land and peoples could be considered a blueprint for the Israeli occupation.

We affirm our commitment to participate fully in the struggle to support Indigenous liberation, self-determination and sovereignty throughout Turtle Island, as we fight for the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea.

We salute Indigenous peoples’ struggle and ongoing resistance and unceasing defense of their land and people. From Turtle Island to Palestine, colonialism is a crime! Freedom for all Indigenous and Palestinian political prisoners!

#WetsuwetenStrong #AllOutForWedzinKwa