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2 July 2024

Open Letter to Premier David Eby: Stop the criminalization of Wet’suwet’en land defenders!

Wet’suwet’en land defenders, under the governance of the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s Hereditary Chiefs, oppose the construction of a natural gaspipeline by the Canadian-based company Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. (CGL), owned by TC Energy Corporation. This pipeline is being built through their ancestral, unceded territory in British Columbia, Canada without the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet'suwet’en Peoples’ Hereditary Chiefs.

Despite the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s opposition, construction of the pipeline began in 2019 and is proceeding without their free, prior, and informed consent. For more than a decade, Wet'suwet'en land defenders have exercised their rights on the Yin'tah (territory) to protect it from unwanted development projects and industries. In December 2018, the British Columbia Supreme Court granted CGL an injunction that criminalizes land defenders if they attempt to impede pipeline construction.

Operating under the terms of the injunction, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the pipeline’s private security company (Forsythe Security) have been intimidating, harassing, and unlawfully surveilling land defenders. More than 75 land defenders have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in four large-scale RCMP raids on Wet’suwet’en territory.

In 2022, the provincial government prosecuted 20 land defenders for allegedly disobeying the terms of the injunction order. Those who have gone to trial face jail time if found guilty. In January 2024, Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham), Shaylynn Sampson and Corey “Jayochee” Jocko were found guilty of criminal contempt for violating the terms of the injunction. However, this conviction was based on solely peaceful actions that they took to stop pipeline construction, such as blocking a road and building tiny houses on pipeline construction sites. Their trial is ongoing because the land defenders presented an application arguing that the RCMP violated their human rights during the raids and their arrests. It will resume in September 2024. If this application is successful, the land defenders' guilty charges will be stayed; if it is unsuccessful, they face jail time and a criminal record. Similarly, Chief Dtsa’hyl, a Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief, was found guilty of criminal contempt by the British Columbia Supreme Court in February 2024 on charges from the 2021 CGL blockade. He will be sentenced in July 2024. The Crown is asking for 6-9 months jail time.

The Wet’suwet’en Nation has the right to decide what forms of economic development should take place on their ancestral lands with their free, prior, and informed consent. They have the right to live in safety, free from surveillance, harassment, racism, criminalization, and gender-based violence. The land defenders are protecting their land and everyone's right to a healthy environment by opposing another harmful fossil fuel project. They have the right to carry out their land defense activities free from violence. The continued construction of the pipeline is unlawful.

The government of British Columbia must immediately:

  • Drop the criminal contempt charges against land defenders who are awaiting trial.
  • Stay the proceedings of those land defenders whose trials are already under way.
  • Halt the harassment, intimidation, unlawful surveillance and criminalization of Wet’suwet’en land defenders.
  • Ensure that injunctions are not used to infringe the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, including forcibly removing them from their territories.


Canadian Sign Ons:

  • Above Ground (a project of MakeWay)
  • Amnesty International Canada English Speaking Section
  • Amnesty International Canada French Speaking Section
  • Association for the Support of North American Indians
  • Ben & Jerry's
  • Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder-Morgan Expansion
  • Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
  • Climate Emergency Unit
  • David Suzuki Foundation
  • Decolonial Solidarity
  • Dogwood BC
  • Freedom from War Coalition
  • Georgia Strait Alliance Josette
  • Wier
  • Lawyers Rights Watch Canada
  • Le Centre Oblate
  • LeadNow
  • Lush Cosmetics
  • Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition
  • MiningWatch Canada
  • OMI Lacombe Canada
  • Project Heart
  • Retired United Church of Canada Clergy
  • Salal and Cedar Watershed Discipleship Community
  • Say No to LNG
  • Sierra Club BC
  • Victoria Climate Action Team
  • Victoria Secular Humanist Association
  • Union of BC Indian Chiefs
  • US Tax Consulting
  • Wilderness Committee
  • Women's International League for Peace & Freedom
  • XAXE TENEW Land Rematriation Society

International Sign Ons:

  • Aktionsgruppe Indigene & Menschenrechte e.V.
  • Amnesty International Cloppenburg
  • Amnesty International France
  • Amnesty International Germany
  • Amnesty InternationalTuebingen
  • European Alliance for the Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples
  • Front Line Defenders
  • Healing Well Healthcare
  • Incomindos
  • Medicine Horse Village
  • Tokata-LPSG RheinMain Germany / Support Group of Indigenous Social, Environmental, Cultural and Human Rights Projects
  • Working Circle Indians of North America/Austria