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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

All eyes on Wet’suwet’en (again)

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Dec 7, 2021

Tensions are rising yet again on the yintah, on the Canadian West Coast. RCMP enforced a 2019 court injunction that favours the Coastal GasLink pipeline and arrested 29 land defenders and journalists in the process.

After a few days, the BC Supreme Court released everyone in custody, including journalists Michael Toledano and Amber Bracken.

The irony is blatant. Back in September, the whole country was sporting orange clothing saying that all children matter. Yet, the RCMP is arresting journalists trying to cover the Wet’suwet’en resistance against the pipeline as well as Indigenous protesters, many of them being youth, for defending their own land.

After blocking communication lines and setting up special injunction zones for the press, the RCMP is back at it using sketchy tactics against press freedom and free, prior and informed consent. Fortunately, Indigenous solidarity demonstrations have started once again across so-called Canada.

We will have to remain vigilant and actively fight against the narrative that colonial violence is long gone. Canadians talk about the Indian Residential School system as a “dark chapter of our history”, but they fail to mention that Indigenous peoples are still being displaced, policed, criminalized and erased on their own land every single day. The erasure of the ongoing violence protects the integrity of a state that was built on genocide, the very same state that took our children away and placed them in residential schools.

The Canadian government likes to point its finger at the Catholic Church and wants the Pope to apologize for residential schools because it buys them time and feeds into the fallacious belief that by taking the Church out of governmental businesses, they stopped colonial violence. By supporting the nations currently in violent altercations with Canadian systems, we prevent Canadians from forgetting about the fact that they benefit from the theft of our lands, cultures and languages, whether they like it or not.

I have opinions about the internal dynamics at the frontlines, but I think we have the moral responsibility to support human rights. Human rights have priority, it is one of the most important aspects of the concept. You might question the legitimacy of the land and sovereignty claims by hereditary chiefs on the West Coast, but one thing must remain clear – the RCMP is actively violating the human rights of Indigenous peoples in a country that claims to champion them.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.