Canada’s minister of Public Safety says he has raised concerns with the RCMP about what he calls “unacceptable words and phrases” that were found in RCMP documents from the Jan.7 raid and arrest of 14 members of the Wet’suwet’en in British Columbia who were trying to stop the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Bill Blair was responding to a report in the Guardian, an online news site based in London, U.K., that reportedly obtained documents that revealed the RCMP was prepared to deploy snipers against Indigenous protestors.
The report also states that the RCMP referred to “sterilizing the site,” and instructed officers participating in the raid to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want.”
APTN News has not independently verified the contents of these documents.
Wet’suwet’en leaders also responded to Friday’s news that the RCMP was authorized to use lethal force during the raid.
Molly Wickham, whose traditional name is Sleydo, expressed outrage about the report.
“The RCMP and the government have been willing to use this much force against us since last year and it’s quite shocking for the world to hear that and see that,” Sleydo said.
“We need for people to keep an eye out and keep watch on what’s happening and put pressure on their own governments to stop interfering with us being Wet’suwet’en.”
Freda Huson of the Unist’od’en village says the RCMP was there to protect corporate interests.
“Any issues with CGL [Coastal GasLink] and they are here within minutes and they set up a station down at 29 KM. Soon as they are called they are here really quick. They appear to us to be CGL’s private security. They are not here to protect the public,” said Hudson.
On Sunday, Senator Murray Sinclair expressed similar concerns about “courts granting court injunctions in such disputes too readily, and the RCMP becoming a security arm for private interests.”
An RCMP spokesperson said the Guardian report was “unsubstantiated, incomplete and inflammatory.”
“Relationships between the RCMP and all stakeholders that have been years in the making, have been damaged and now require rebuilding,” said Janelle Shoihet. “The RCMP has reached out to request a meeting with Hereditary Chiefs and is hopeful this meeting will soon occur.
“In the interim, the RCMP has commenced a review of all documents relating to the enforcement of the court ordered injunction and to date can find no documents or references, which reflect statements made in the article.”
Guardian reporter Will Parrish says he’s surprised the RCMP couldn’t find their own documents to review.
“It’s hard to imagine the RCMP wouldn’t know where to look for these documents because, as I told them, the records are police strategy sessions regarding the raid and audio and video files regarding the raid,” he said.
The RCMP was ordered by the British Columbia Supreme Court to enforce the injunction.
And that when the force deploys its Emergency Response Team, it’s composed of officers who serve different roles – including “sniper observer.”
But Sleydo doesn’t buy it.
“I don’t know how you take a sniper out of context, either they were here or they weren’t. We know what snipers are for and they were here and they were watching all of us the whole time.”
In a written statement, Coastal GasLink defended its Unist’ot’en Camp access protocol.
“The protocol has worked well since it was signed in the spring and we look forward to continuing to engage with Dark House on access and our mutual interest of safety. There remains in place a legal injunction, which is enforceable by the RCMP and whose actions Coastal GasLink does not direct,” the company said.
“We have no operational control or influence over RCMP activities and will not be making comment on unsubstantiated claims,” it added.
Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, however, say they remain the authority on their unceded territory.
“All of the headwaters, water sources, the animals living in their wildlife habitats here right through the four seasons. We are directly connected to the land,” said Chief Woos.
“Occupation is key for our wellbeing and our health, very important to us.”
With files from Lee Wilson.