Recently, land defenders and allies across Canada have rallied behind Wet’suwet’en land defenders in northwestern British Columbia in response to the RCMP’s removal of land defenders.
On Jan. 1, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs issued an eviction notice to the Canadian government and Coastal Gas Link, who were planning on constructing a pipeline on traditional Wet’suwet’en territory. About a month later, armed RCMP officers raided the camp, removing and arresting land defenders, enforcing the court injunction that would allow the construction to resume.
Solidarity actions in the rest of Canada began that same day, with a rail blockade in Belleville, Ontario, in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. Actions have also been taking place closer to home, with a rail blockade between the Aldershot and West Harbour GO stations last week, and an ongoing blockade on Highway 6.
The way that this has been framed by media and government is highly concerning—the land defenders have been framed as inconveniences, and at worst, they are portrayed as threats.
For example, mainstream media sources focused on the potential chlorine shortage that could result from the rail blockades. Notably, 30 minutes away from Hamilton, only nine per cent of residents at Six Nations reserve have household access to clean drinking water.
A couple of weeks ago, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer described the land defenders as a small group of radical activists that were holding the economy hostage.
Look at the comments on any local news piece about the rail blockades, and see people echoing Scheer, calling for the violent removal of Wet’suwet’en land defenders and allies.
However, the land defenders are not the real threat. Absent from these discussions is the threat of unsustainable development and environmental degradation that will result from continued reliance on fossil fuels.
And even more concerning is the violation Indigenous nations’ right to govern themselves. This is an issue of Indigenous sovereignty and the right to self-governance. It makes the contradictions at the heart of the Canadian government’s supposed commitment to reconciliation abundantly clear.
Upholding Indigenous sovereignty only when it’s convenient to the rest of Canada does not come anywhere close to reconciliation.
Train delays, pipeline disturbances and disruption to “business as usual” are not the real threats here, and it is disingenuous and irresponsible to frame the issue as anything but.