B.C. human rights commissioner calls on Canada to stop eviction of Wet'suwet'en people in pipeline standoff
Commissioner's statement comes as protesters set up a blockade on Coastal GasLink pipeline's access road
B.C.'s human rights commissioner is urging the Canadian government to stop the eviction of Wet'suwet'en and Secwepemc peoples who are protesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline in the province's north.
Kasari Govender spoke out Friday after a United Nations committee working to end racism urged Canada to immediately stop the construction of three major resource projects in British Columbia — including the Coastal GasLink pipeline near Smithers — until it obtains approval from affected First Nations.
In a statement issued Friday, Govender said the use of lethal weapons should be prohibited, and wants a guarantee that no force will be used against the First Nations protesters.
"Indigenous peoples who oppose development projects on their traditional territories should never be met with violence for peaceful opposition," Govender said in the written statement.
"Canada cannot simultaneously vie for a seat at the Security Council while ignoring their obligations to other parts of the UN."
A December report in U.K. newspaper The Guardian detailed notes from what was described as an RCMP strategy session in which police argued for "lethal overwatch" of the protest site.
CBC News has not independently reviewed the documents cited in The Guardian's article.
UN committee calls for end to 3 B.C. resource projects
The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has previously demanded a halt to the Site C project in northeast British Columbia. However, Tuesday marked the first time it called for a stop to the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipeline projects.
Govender added in her statement that B.C. and Canada both plan to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes the right to "free, prior and informed consent'' on projects.
In my lifetime, there has never been a more important time for Canada to demonstrate support for institutions of democracy. As international institutions face attacks from leaders who shirk accountability, our responsibility to respect these institutions grows stronger. 1/7—@KasariGovender
The Wetsuwet'un hereditary chiefs have asked all uninvited people to leave their land, including police and pipeline workers.
Coastal GasLink has provincial approval to build a 670-kilometre pipeline from northeastern B.C. to LNG Canada's $40-billion export terminal in Kitimat.
The company has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline route, but the five Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs say no one can access the land without their consent.
Earlier this week, the company was granted an injunction order by a B.C. judge giving pipeline opponents 72 hours to leave the work site.
Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs responded with their own eviction notice shortly after. They demanded the province suspend all permits for the pipeline effective immediately, saying there will be no access to their traditional territory without their consent.
About a dozen supporters of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs arrived Thursday to help set up a new camp along a snowy logging road that's at the centre of dispute.
A spokeswoman for the company says the injunction does not indicate a request for enforcement and Coastal GasLink is committed to resolving the dispute through negotiation.
With files from The Canadian Press