By TAYTYN BADGER
As we move into the New Year, the Canadian government has wasted no time in gearing up for a renewed assault on the Wet’suwet’en peoples and their homeland, located 200 kilometers inland in the territory occupied by the province of British Columbia. RCMP officers and equipment have begun to mass in the forestry and mining towns of Houston and Smithers, near the Gidimt’en Checkpoint and Coyote Camp, which were recently reclaimed by land defenders after the last attack in November 2021.
This will be the fourth such invasion of Wet’suwet’en land over the last four years, and the second against Coyote Camp, constructed to block tunnelling the Coastal Gaslink pipeline under the headwaters of the Wedzin Kwa river. These invasions are for the purpose of removing Indigenous resistance to the expansion of the Coastal GasLink and other fossil fuel pipelines. (The $6 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline is designed to carry natural gas to a shipping terminal at Kitimat, B.C., in order to export it to international markets.) All this is accompanied by endless platitudes from the Canadian State about reconciliation and environmental protection.
This land, the home of the Wet’suwet’en since time immemorial, is core to their culture, religion, and livelihood. It is a source of food, water, and game, and home to countless forms of plant and wildlife, all of which are threatened by the intrusion of the RCMP and fossil fuel companies.
Further, while it must be noted that no treaties with settler-colonial states are legitimate, each one extracted under duress or at the end of a gun, Wet’suwet’en land was never even theoretically “surrendered” to the Canadian state. This is something even the settler-colonial Supreme Court were forced to acknowledge in cases such as 1997’s Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, which found that the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en peoples possessed unextinguished aboriginal title and rights to their land.
Over the course of their invasion of Wet’suwet’en land, the RCMP have assaulted and arrested dozens of land defenders, including elders and matriarchs. They have ignored the demands of the traditional hereditary chiefs and blocked food, Wet’suwet’en people, and journalists from Wet’suwet’en territory. Alongside construction workers in the employ of TC Energy, which is building the Coastal GasLink pipeline, they have repeatedly harassed Wet’suwet’en people, destroyed traditional traplines, sacred sites, centuries old paths, burial grounds, and archaeological sites. All this has been done in the interests of shareholders in TC Energy and the fossil fuel industry, and more generally, the capitalist class whose rule the Canadian state exists to uphold.
The ongoing invasion of Wet’suwet’en land is a particularly high-profile reflection of the underlying logic of settler-capitalism and resultant oppression of Indigenous peoples. The settler-capitalist system is built upon constant and ever-growing theft and exploitation of Indigenous land and expropriation and elimination of Indigenous peoples. This to meet capitalism’s requirement for constant expansion of the exploitation of land and peoples to maintain profits and avoid collapse.
Socialist Resurgence stands in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Peoples, in defence of their sovereignty, land, and right to self-determination against the forces of capital and the Canadian state, which acts on their behalf. We call for the cancellation of the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline, as well as the construction of other pipelines and projects against the will of the Wet’suwet’en people and traditional government. Finally, we call upon socialists, workers, and working organizations to support the struggles of the Wet’suwet’en and all Indigenous peoples oppressed by settler-capitalism and to fight for decolonization.
Photo: Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs participate in January 2020 rally in Smithers, B.C, to protest the Coastal GasLink pipeline. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)