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RCMP Arrest Land Defenders And Journalists Following Invasion Of Wet’suwet’en Territory

Following a paramilitary-style invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory last Thursday that saw the arrests of 15 land defenders, legal observers, reporters and Wet’suwet’en elders, the RCMP arrested journalists Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano on Friday.

RCMP Arrest Land Defenders And Journalists Following Invasion Of Wet’suwet’en Territory
Gidimt’en Checkpoint/Twitter.

From The Narwhal: Following a paramilitary-style invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory last Thursday that saw the arrests of 15 land defenders, legal observers, reporters and Wet’suwet’en elders, the RCMP arrested journalists Amber Bracken and Michael Toledano on Friday while they were on assignment covering the situation.

  • The RCMP were enforcing an injunction against land defenders who are upholding Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ opposition to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on their territory.

The arrests of the journalists prompted widespread condemnation from media outlets (including The Maple), civil liberties groups and press freedom organizations, who are calling for the immediate release of the reporters.

Discussing the RCMP's decision to arrest reporters, Canadian Association of Journalists president Brent Jolly told The Narwhal Saturday: “The RCMP, for whatever reason, continues to act with impunity and they are continually working to subvert law and best practice and that can’t be tolerated.”

  • Jolly pointed to similar restrictions on press freedoms that took place during the Fairy Creek logging blockades earlier this year. This resulted in a B.C. Supreme Court ruling against the Mounties’ actions against journalists.

According to The Narwhal: “The arrests (on Wet’suwet’en territory) were made with the use of canine units and snipers. RCMP broke down the door to a tiny home with an axe to remove (Jennifer) Wickham, Bracken and others, while officers used a chainsaw to extract (Jocey) Alec from a cabin on the drill site. Dinï ze’ (Chief) Woos was prevented from accessing his territory as police made the arrests.”

Read The Narwhal’s full story from Saturday here.

From The Tyee: Assessing the situation in The Tyee, Amanda Follett Hosgood wrote Saturday: “Press freedom isn’t just a lofty ideal — it’s enshrined in Canadian law, meant to ensure journalists are allowed to do their jobs, even as heavily-armed police officers descend on an evidently peaceful Indigenous protest.”

  • Follett Hosgood continued: “The RCMP’s legal argument for detaining Bracken and Toledano has been that they were “embedded” in the Wet’suwet’en protests … Embedding oneself is essential to good storytelling. Canadian courts have defended journalists’ right to embed themselves in the interest of telling stories.”

Follett Hosgood concluded: “When a journalist gains access, they gain access for everyone. We are the eyes and ears of the public. News releases from RCMP, government and industry rarely tell the whole story. If you’re not on the ground, you’re not getting the complete story.”

Read Follett Hosgood’s full analysis here.

From Ricochet: In a piece for Ricochet published Saturday, Chen Zhou noted that in addition to the blockade causing disruptions to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet'suwet'en territory, B.C.’s climate change-fuelled flooding crisis also stalled the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

  • As well, Zhou noted that the landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision of 1993 in Delgamuukw found the hereditary leadership of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Nations to be the lawful title holders on the territory in question.

In a statement to Richcoet, the RCMP claimed any allegations they used excessive force are false: “We can confirm that the Emergency Response Team and Police Service Dog are deployed to assist with the operation but are only in an observation capacity.”

  • In an open letter to the B.C. government, Zhou noted, Ketty Nivyabandi, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, wrote: “An increased police presence raises serious concerns for the safety of Wet’suwet’en land defenders and their supporters, considering previous arrests and reports that officers deployed in 2019 were approved to use lethal over[watch] during the execution of the injunction order.”

Read Ricochet’s full story here.

From the B.C. Civil Liberties Association: In a statement published Friday, the BCCLA said:

The BCCLA is appalled by the increasing and overwhelming presence of militarized RCMP in unceded, un-surrendered Wet’suwet’en territory. We also condemn the RCMP for its use of an illegal exclusion zone established at the 27 kilometre mark of the Morice Forest Service Road. RCMP presence in Wet’suwet’en territory is a violation of the rule of law, Wet’suwet’en law, Indigenous rights and responsibilities, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

  • The statement added: “The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have repeatedly asserted that Coastal GasLink and the RCMP do not have consent to be on their territory. Yet again, the unlawful actions of the RCMP is putting the lives of the Wet’suwet’en people and their allies in grave danger … We demand that the RCMP be commanded to stand down and immediately vacate Wet’suwet’en territory.”

Read the BCCLA’s full statement here.

Journalist Desmond Cole tweeted Sunday that while he supports calls to immediately release Bracken and Toledano, he is “uneasy with "press freedom" narratives.” Cole explained: “do journalists who breach an injunction have more right to be free from arrest than the people defending the land?”

  • Cole added: “in theory the Charter protects freedom of the press. it also protects our right to assemble and express ourselves. no protection is absolute, but many seem to believe the denial of press freedom is more threatening than, for example, denying the right to assemble. I disagree.”

Read Cole’s full Twitter thread here.

A series of Wet’suwet’en solidarity actions that took place across Canada this weekend can be followed on the Gidimt’en Checkpoint’s Twitter feed here.


United Conservative Party/Facebook.

Other News

  • Alberta Premier Jason Kenney delivered a speech at the United Conservative Party annual meeting Saturday pleading his party’s members to resolve “internal differences internally” amid bitter infighting that could see Kenney ousted as leader over the coming months, the Toronto Star reported.
  • For RankAndFile, Jeremy Appel reported Saturday that workers at the Cargill meatpacking plant in High River, Alberta — at one point the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in North America — are taking on their employer as the company rakes in record profits. Workers at the plant voted 97 per cent in favour of strike action on Nov. 10.
  • Concern over the vaccination status of Conservative MPs was back in the spotlight yet again on the eve of a new session of Parliament after Quebec MP Richard Lehoux tested positive for COVID-19, The Canadian Press reported Sunday.

LISTEN: Don’t miss the first episode of The Maple’s Great Gilded North podcast series, in which we spoke to writer Sam Smart about her recent article titled “A Guide To The Ruling Class’s Domination And Destruction Of Canadian Media.”

Find the episode on SoundCloud, Apple, Spotify or Google.

The Maple/SoundCloud.

Commentary

  • Assessing Premier Jason Kenney’s UCP AGM speech, David Climenhaga writes on his AlbertaPolitics blog that the UCP leader’s remarks didn’t amount to much more than “the usual Conservative bromides, empty promises, and unjustified braggadocio.” Climenhaga writes: “Certainly his apology to members for the current fractured and unpopular state of the party seemed glib and cursory, at least to your blogger, who has heard professional politicians in hot water rap off this kind of insincere balderdash before, summed up, as indeed Mr. Kenney did, with the plea for everyone to pull together and hope for better days.”

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