Amnesty International delegates head to B.C. to witness trial for land defenders

The second phase of the abuse of power claim by Wet’suwet’en begins next week.

land defenders

An RCMP tactical group, (C-IRG) converged on Wet'suwet'en-led resistance camps for the third straight year on Nov. 18, 2021. The operation continued on Nov. 19. Photo: Dan Loan/Twitter

Delegates from Amnesty International are set to attend the second part of the trials of the “criminalized land defenders” from Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia starting on June 17.

The first part of the abuse of process application was heard in court in Smithers, B.C. on Jan. 12.

According to Amnesty, delegates from France, Germany, the United States and Canada will follow the trial of Sley’do Molly Wickham, (Wet’suwet’en), Shaylynn Sampson, (Gitxsan) and Corey Jayoheee Jocko, (Mohawk), who were arrested on Nov. 19, 2021 by officers with the Community-Incident Response Group – a faction of the RCMP that deals with protesters who oppose natural resource project.

“Amnesty observers have traveled from Europe and the Americas for these trial proceedings, and their presence reflects our alarm at flagrant human rights violations in Wet’suwet’en territory,” said Ketty Nivyabandi, secretary general of Amnesty International in a statement released Thursday.

“The world will witness the courage of Indigenous land defenders who put themselves at risk, not only to protect their territory and rights, but to ensure a healthy environment for all of us.

“We continue to urge Canada to prioritize the rights of Indigenous Nations and their struggle to mitigate climate change.”

A number of Wet’suwet’en land defenders were arrested in June 2022 and eventually found guilty of criminal contempt for disobeying an injunction order to stay away from pipeline construction sites.

However, after their conviction in January 2024, they launched an abuse of process claim against the RCMP alleging that police used excessive force during their arrest and they weren’t treated well while in custody.

In December 2023, Amnesty International published the report ‘Removed from our land for defending it’: Criminalization, Intimidation and Harassment of Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders.

The report examines the human rights violations on members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and their supporters by the authorities of Canada, British Columbia; CGL Pipeline Ltd. and TC Energy, the corporations building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory; and Forsythe Security, a private security firm contracted by CGL Pipeline Ltd.

In addition, the report found that Wet’suwet’en land defenders and their supporters were detained for peacefully defending their land against the construction of the pipeline and exercising their Indigenous rights and their right of peaceful assembly.

According to the Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham), “All Wet’suwet’en Clans have rejected the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline because this is our home. Our medicines, our berries, our food, the animals, our water, our culture are all here since time immemorial. We are obligated to protect our ways of life for our babies unborn,” said Sleydo’ in a statement on Yintah Access’s website.

In a statement on Amnesty internationals’ website, Hereditary Chief Na’Moks of the Wet’suwet’en Nation said the trials are prosecuting Indigenous people for protecting clean air, clean land and the right to be free.

“The Canadian government should pay close attention to the fact that there is a delegation from Amnesty International coming to British Columbia to attend these trials,” he said.

Na’Moks added. “If UNDRIP (the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) is to be respected, all the charges should be dropped immediately. It is not illegal to protect what is best for everyone.”

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