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Protesters outside the Canadian consulate in New York City rally against the Coastal GasLink Pipeline and in solidarity with the Wet'Suwet'en First Nations people on February 18, 2020. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Demonstrators rally at a solidarity protest for the Wet'suwet'en First Nations people and against the Coastal GasLink pipeline at the Canadian consulate in New York City on February 18, 2020. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty Images)

First Nations Land Defenders File Submission to UN Human Rights Council

"Wet'suwet'en is an international frontline to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples and to prevent climate change."

Brett Wilkins

First Nations land defenders on Monday filed a submission to the United Nations detailing how their territory and human rights are being violated by Canadian and British Columbian authorities in service of a fossil fuel corporation's gas pipeline.

"We are intimidated and surveilled by armed RCMP, smeared as terrorists, and dragged through colonial courts. This is the reality of Canada."

The submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council was filed by the Gidimt'en—one of the five clans of the Wet'suwet'en Nation—who for years have been fighting to stop the construction of Coastal GasLink's pipeline through their territory in northern British Columbia. 

The filing notes that "ongoing human rights violations, militarization of Wet'suwet'en lands, forcible removal and criminalization of peaceful land defenders, and irreparable harm due to industrial destruction of Wet'suwet'en lands and cultural sites are occurring despite declarations by federal and provincial governments for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples."

All five Wet'suwet'en clans oppose the pipeline, which is being built on tribal land that the Canadian Supreme Court acknowledges as unceded. Canadian authorities, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), have answered nonviolent Wet'suwet'en land defense with heavily armed officers employing heavy-handed removal tactics. 

Scores of Wet'suwet'en land defenders, including four hereditary chiefs, have been arrested and charged, as have journalists and legal observers. In December, Coastal GasLink dropped charges against two journalists who were arrested while covering a militarized police raid last November 19. 

More than 30 land defenders are scheduled to appear in the British Columbian Supreme Court in Prince George, built on the site of a burned Lheidli T'enneh village, next week.

Meanwhile, construction continues on the 416-mile pipeline, which will carry gas from Michif Piiyii (Métis) territory in northeastern British Columbia to an export terminal in coastal Kitimat, on the land of the x̣àʼisla w̓áwís (Haisla) people. 

"By deploying legal, political, and economic tactics to violate our rights, Canada and B.C. are contravening the spirit of reconciliation, as well as their binding obligations to Indigenous law, Canadian constitutional law, UNDRIP, and international law," the Gidimt'en submission states, referring to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Gidimt'en Checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo' said in a statement that "we urge the United Nations to conduct a field visit to Wet'suwet'en territory because Canada and B.C. have not withdrawn RCMP from our territory and have not suspended Coastal GasLink's permits, despite the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calling on them to do so." 

"Wet'suwet'en is an international frontline to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples and to prevent climate change," she added. "Yet we are intimidated and surveilled by armed RCMP, smeared as terrorists, and dragged through colonial courts. This is the reality of Canada."

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