In February 2020, the Canadian CED Network issued a statement of solidarity with the Hereditary Chiefs, community members, and land defenders of Wet’suwet’en.
Nineteen months later, the situation is much the same. Land defenders continue to oppose the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline; again, the government and corporate sector are ignoring these demands and are instead deploying militarized police to forcibly remove Indigenous people from their own lands. This time, though, the situation is unfolding in the wake of historic floods and landslides that have devastated the territory and much of British Columbia — as well as an ongoing pandemic that is far from over. All of this puts in stark relief the connections between colonialism, the climate crisis, and the profit motives of extractive industry.
Since February 2020, the CCEDNet staff, Board, and member network have embarked upon multiple processes to help deepen our collective understanding of settler colonialism and white supremacy. In our Theory of Change, we commit to using “an intersectional, intersectoral, and collaborative approach” focused on collective liberation, so that we may build a world where “sustainable, inclusive, and equitable communities [direct] their own futures.” In our Policy Priorities, we name reconciliation, nation-to-nation dialogue, and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as guiding concepts for our work. And through our internal anti-oppression learning journey, staff and Board members have grappled with questions of how forces such as systemic racism, patriarchy, and colonialism show up in our work. All of these commitments have strengthened our resolve to take action for decolonization and economic justice.
Self-determination is central to community economic development. The Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the Hereditary Chiefs, who are responsible under Wet’suwet’en law and governance for making decisions relating to their ancestral lands, has still not been obtained. Therefore, we re-affirm our solidarity with the Hereditary Chiefs, community members, land defenders, and all those standing with Wet’suwet’en.
We share our original statement here in full below. (Note that we have updated the resource list at the bottom.)
February 18, 2020 – The Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) stands in solidarity with the Hereditary Chiefs, community members, and land defenders of Wet’suwet’en.
We recognize the sovereignty of the Wet’suwet’en Nation over these unceded lands and that all of the Hereditary Chiefs of the five Wet’suwet’en Clans have rejected the proposed TC Energy Coastal GasLink pipeline. We call on the RCMP to immediately stand down from Wet’suwet’en Territories.
The Canadian Government has committed to restoring relationships with Indigenous peoples. Indigenous title is protected by the Canadian Constitution and has been upheld by decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada. Both the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP – endorsed by Canada in 2016 and by BC in 2019) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission affirm the fundamental principle of “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” not just of the elected band councils, but also of the clans and the Hereditary Chiefs. We call on federal and provincial governments to uphold UNDRIP in honouring the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s right to Free, Prior and Informed consent and negotiate with the Wet’suwet’en Nation on a true nation-to-nation basis.
With deep respect for Indigenous traditional knowledge, CCEDNet recognizes the inextricable links between extractive capitalism and colonialism, and advocates for economic levers for change that contribute to community and environmental well-being.
Wet’suwet’en people are standing up to protect the lands and waters and showing the world what it means to defend the future through democratic, participatory, and community-owned approaches. In doing so, they are also affirming sovereignty over the care and keeping of our common home – the original definition of ‘economy.’
Construction costs alone for the Coastal GasLink pipeline are estimated at $6.6 billion. This figure does not account for the expense of RCMP deployment; neither does it include the billions of dollars in subsidies that the Canadian government pays to the oil and gas industry every year.
A number of Wet’suwet’en First Nations have signed Impact Benefit Agreements and would derive economic opportunities important to their communities. But imagine if an equivalent investment was instead made in a just transition toward an ecological economy built through co-operation and decolonization. We would be able to address the climate crisis with the resources and urgency it demands, while ensuring access to vital community services and decent work.
In this era of climate crisis, it’s more important than ever for the decisions that impact communities to be rooted in local knowledge and led by communities. Wet’suwet’en land defenders are teaching us all how to stand up for an economic reality that honours the earth and all beings – prioritizing community well-being over corporate profits.
We call for investments to build a society where all people and communities, now and into the future, may experience a good quality of life. We call on our members, collaborators, friends, and allies to join in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation by condemning ongoing colonial violence against Indigenous people and communities, including forced removal, and by uplifting the voices and actions of land defenders and allies.
The Canadian Community Economic Development Network
We encourage people to keep learning and doing their own research, and offer a few resources below:
- Visit the Gidimt’en Yintah Access website for media stories and videos from the frontlines
- Read Dr. Pam Palmater’s analysis of the connection between the arrests of Indigenous land defenders and the profit motives of extractive industry
- The Office of the Wet’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en both provide detailed information on the nation’s Hereditary Chiefs and governance system
- For analysis of Indigenous legal orders and hereditary governance systems more broadly, the Indigenous Law Research Unit at the University of Victoria hosts a wealth of resources on their website
- A piece on the differences between elected and hereditary leadership (CBC)
- The Wet’suwet’en, Aboriginal Title, and the Rule of Law: An Explainer (First People’s Law)
- Putting the RCMP raid on the Wet’suwet’en in Historical Perspective (Toronto Star)
- United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination resolution calling for a halt to Coastal GasLink construction
Want to find a way to offer support?
- To the Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders Legal Defense Fund
- To the Office of the Wet’suwet’en by mailing a cheque to 205 Beaver Road, Suite #1 Smithers B.C. V0J 2N1
Call provincial and federal ministers and industry leaders:
- BC Premier John Horgan (250) 387-1715
- Attorney General David Eby (250) 387-1866
- BC Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth (250) 356 – 2178
- Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino (613) 992 – 6361
- BC Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin (250) 953 – 4844
- MLA for Stikine (Wet’suwet’en Territory) Nathan Cullen (250) 387 – 3655
- Federal Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson (613) 995 1225
- Prime Minister Trudeau (613) 992 4211
- Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller (613) 995 – 6403
- Find contact information for your provincial MLA and federal MP
- Put pressure on KKR, the private equity firm financing Coastal GasLink pipeline.