On the morning of Sunday January 5th 2020, all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en nation called for solidarity actions to support their decision to evict Coastal Gaslink from their territories. This eviction action is a direct challenge to the ruling released on January 1st by Chief Justice Church of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, who found in favour of Coastal Gaslink’s application for an interlocutory injunction.
The Church injunction arms the RCMP with legal rationale to marshall “lethal overwatch” against Wet’suwet’en pipeline resistance, the same sort of deadly force they did not hesitate to wield when backed by an interim injunction in the snows of January 2019. The frontlines of our resistance against the Church injunction and the Coastal Gaslink pipeline must be everywhere, and, in order to be strong enough to defeat Canada’s invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory, resistance against the Church injunction must unite Indigenous sovereigntists, climate justice activists, trade unionists, tenant, anti-eviction and homeless fighters, feminist and anti-violence, and anti-war and anti-imperialist activists.
Justice Church’s decision forces through the $6.6 billion gas pipeline against the sovereign decision of the Wet’suwet’en nation. The Church decision, and the RCMP and Coastal Gaslink’s subsequent deadlines and threats that they intend to invade Wet’suwet’en territory, make it clear as the mountain water in the river running through the Unist’ot’en Camp that Canada’s courts and government insistence on the Coastal Gaslink pipeline is about one thing: colonial power.
The language of Justice Church’s ruling barely requires analysis to show how colonial law eradicates Indigenous sovereignty. Her ruling states: “The defendants are seeking to exclude the application of British Columbia law within Wet’suwet’en territory, which is something that Canadian law will not entertain.” Asserting Indigenous law on, and Indigenous control over, Indigenous land is a challenge to Canada’s sovereign legal power, which is, in the famous formulation of Thomas Hobbes’ theory of the modern state, “a monopoly over the exercise of force.” Church’s court will not tolerate a separate, Wet’suwet’en power within Canada’s colonial borders.
Dragged before BC Supreme Court to defend their territory, Unist’ot’en Camp defenders argued that Coastal Gaslink was violating Wet’suwet’en law, which predates the imposition of Canada’s rule of law by millennia, by trespassing without consent. Chief Justice Church rejected their argument, finding that Indigenous law is not “an effectual part of Canadian law,” meaning that Canada’s courts consider Indigenous law alien to its colonial legal logic, and will not consider the precedent of Indigenous laws in Supreme Court decisions.
How can the BC Supreme Court find Canada’s laws are immune to the effects of Wet’suwet’en law when, just months ago, the BC Government adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Nations? The UN Declaration, often referred to as UNDRIP, states that colonial governments must receive “free and prior informed consent” from Indigenous nations before pursuing extraction projects on their lands. But how can a government approach Indigenous nations for consent if the government’s court armours itself against correspondence with Indigenous law?
Justice Church uses colonial logic to answer that problem. She found that while Wet’suwet’en title has not been extinguished, the government has no way to seek consent because the Wet’suwet’en have not concluded a bilateral agreement or mutual recognition through the BC Treaty Process. Based on a colonial Doctrine of Discovery claim that radical, underlying title to all lands within Canada’s claimed borders lies with the colonial Crown, Church said the legal onus is on Indigenous nations to prove to the Crown that Indigenous jurisdiction over Indigenous lands should be recognized by the Canadian state.
We assert that the BC Government’s adoption of UNDRIP means that Coastal Gaslink must obtain Wet’suwet’en consent to build a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en lands. But Church says that Wet’suwet’en lands will only be Wet’suwet’en lands when recognized through bilateral agreement through the BC Treaty Process, an extermination table that forces Indigenous title into Canada’s legal net, extinguishing Indigenous sovereignty.
Sovereignty is nothing except a nation’s exercise of authority over access to and use ofterritory. Church knows this because she ruthlessly defends Canada’s sovereign power over its claimed territory, against the counter claims of the Wet’suwet’en nation.
Alliance Against Displacement is on the side of the Wet’suwet’en nation, and of all Indigenous peoples and nations against Canada’s imperialist rule of law. We extend a hand to our relatives and co-fighters in Wet’suwet’en territory and stand by your side. From the Gidimt’en Checkpoint that Coastal Gaslink’s RCMP-backed goons are marching toward, to the streets, ports, and rail lines of Vancouver that serve as conduits for capital, our front lines are many and we are one.