Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began raids on the territory of the Wet‘suwet’en Indigenous nation on February 6—arresting as many as 80 Indigenous land defenders in the first days of the incursion—to dismantle camps that the Wet‘suwet’en had established on their land to prevent construction of a $6.6 billion liquid natural gas pipeline being built by Coastal GasLink, which is owned by TC Energy.
The police were enforcing an injunction from the British Columbia (BC) Supreme Court, though the Wet‘suwet’en have never ceded control of their land to Canada. Under Wet‘suwet’en law (Canadian Observer, 2/7/20), hereditary chiefs have authority over their territory. They opposed the pipeline, though it has support from the elected Wet’suwet’en band councils that were created under the Indian Act, which Canada unilaterally imposed on Indigenous peoples in 1876.
Coast-to-coast solidarity actions by Indigenous peoples and their supporters began in response to the RCMP raids, most notably in the form of road, highway and rail blockades, including a shut-down of the country’s principle east-west rail link. Blockades led to significant service halts by VIA Rail, Canada’s main rail passenger rail service, and disruptions in the operations of CN Rail, a major freight railway and the country’s only transcontinental railway.
A pickup truck with a Confederate flag on its dashboard drove through a highway blockade in BC (Global, 2/11/20). In Saskatchewan, a man drove into people blocking a highway (Global, 2/12/20). Indigenous peoples faced a deluge of racism (Al-Jazeera, 3/2/20), including death threats (Al-Jazeera, 3/1/20)