Documents reveal that Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were prepared to use lethal force against indigenous protestors that blocked construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia.
The notes, obtained by The Guardian, were from a strategy session for a raid that took place on the ancestral lands of the Wet’suwet’en nation in January. In the notes, the RCMP said that "lethal overwatch is req’d," a phrase that signals the use of snipers.
Additionally, RCMP commanders told officers to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” before the raid to remove a barrier which had been built by the Wet’suwet’en people to control access to their territories and stop construction of the proposed 416-mile Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline, the publication reports.
During the Jan. 7 raid, armed RCMP officers descended upon the roadblock that was set up by the Wet’suwet’en, dismantled it and arrested 14 people in the process.
The Unist’ot’en, a house inside the Wet’suwet’en, have been at the center of the pipeline struggle. The blockade was set up 13.7 miles away from a Unist’ot’en camp.
“In our experience, since first contact, RCMP have been created by the federal government to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands,” Unist’ot’en spokeswoman Freda Huson told The Guardian. “They have proven [that] through their harassment of my people to support Coastal GasLink in invading our territories.”
A RCMP spokesperson wouldn't confirm to the publication the contents of the documents, but said the RCMP was simply acting on a December 2018 injunction against the Wet’suwet’en who were interfering with the CGL pipeline.
Like many of the indigenous people in British Columbia, the Wet’suwet’en haven't relinquished their land to the Canadian government by treaty, land sale or surrender, The Guardian reports.
In 1997, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that aboriginal land ownership had never been given up across the Wet’suwet’en’s 22,000 square-kilometers of territory.
However, the pipeline builder, TC Energy, is seeking to permanently prohibit the Wet’suwet’en from blocking access to pipeline work sites through a court injunction. The injunction has not yet been ruled on.