On January 6th, solidarity activists with the Wet’suwet’en land and water protectors posted a photo on social media showing a bus carrying militarized RCMP, enroute to kick the Wet’suwet’en land and water protectors off their own territory for the Coastal GasLink pipeline. This was accompanied by a general international call-out to hold solidarity actions in support of the Wet’suwet’en Clan Leaders. We knew we had to do something.
The lousy focus and light on that photo vividly brought back to my mind the many months we monitored RCMP movements here in Sikniktuk (also known as Kent County, New Brunswick, “Rexton” or “Elsipogtog”).
Back in 2013, Mi’kmaq, Acadian, and English-speaking residents united to protect our water and communities from getting fracked by SWN Resources Canada. The RCMP kept trying to stop us from trying to stop SWN’s data-gathering “thumper” trucks, which were looking for the best places to start drilling.
It seemed like everyone in our whole rural neighbourhood had eyes on the road, keeping tabs on where SWN employees and RCMP vehicles were swarming. They always travelled together. And we were often in front of them, getting into place to accomplish our non-violent resistance protection of our region.
We know what it feels like to be at the sharp end of a fracking corporation’s injunction, ordering us to stop protection of our water and communities. And we also know what it is like when the RCMP decides to enforce that injunction.
Like Freda Huson and Warner Naziel at the Unist’ot’en Camp, here in Sikniktuk more than 20 people were named in civil court injunctions back in 2013. I was one of the original 10 people that SWN hoped to control or neutralize by threatening to sue us for all the money they said they lost from us getting in their way – UNLESS we got out of the way entirely and advised anyone influenced by us to also not get in their way. The injunction said we were also not allowed to organize resistance actions, etc.
What was curious in our situation here in Sikniktuk is that for the first two weeks the injunction was in effect, RCMP officers and site commanders continually asserted that it was “not their job” to enforce the injunction. One RCMP Sergeant was even quoted in an October 8, 2013 affidavit, that was used by SWN in court to continue the injunction, saying they would not go into the resistance camp to help serve the injunction documents. I, who had been named in the injunction, was able to walk freely past the cops, who recognized me by name and assured me they would not arrest me. The last time I was at the Camp was 12 days into the injunction period. Never once warned or arrested by the cops.
Somehow it suddenly became their business to enforce this injunction, at dawn on October 17th.
Obviously, it is now standard operating orders for the RCMP to enforce such civil injunctions. It has never been explained why their position reversed so totally on this matter. We do know that not all RCMP were happy with that order, though. But the rules of command are the rules.
January 8th in Sikniktuk: A visit to the RCMP station
Seeing that call for solidarity and knowing what was coming at them in Wet’suwet’en, we here in Sikniktuk decided to rally at the local RCMP Detachment Buiding in Richibucto, which is just a few kilometres from where all the action went down in October 2013.
In this quiet rural area, on about 30 hours notice, from 10 am to 1 pm on January 8th, about 30 people gathered there. We began with a smudge and then a few stayed outside to welcome latecomers while about 20 of us went into the small RCMP station. I told the staff at the window that we wanted to talk witb the most senior officer present. Cpl. Daniel Melanson appeared in the lobby. I handed him the January 6th statement from the Wet’suwet’en Clan Leaders and said we all know what happened here in 2013 was similar in many ways. It was very painful for the community, as well as wrong and brutal. Having gone through this is what motivated us to organize this rally, in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Clan Leaders and their communities.
I told Cpl Melanson that many of us in the room with him wanted to speak personally to the RCMP about how we felt about this further incidence of brutal intrusion by the RCMP on unceded Indigenous Territory. I asked him to take notes of what we were saying and to report it up the line to his superiors and get back to me on what was said. He has since emailed me to say he has done that. And I have subsequently emailed him, asking that he share with me the list of points he sent up the line.
I am going to publish a Part 2 to this recap, another piece, in a couple days. I will try to recap all the heartfelt, brilliant and important points that were made by the people who were present. Many were veterans from the 2013 water protection against SWN but some younger solidarity and environmental supportors were also with us. Cpl Melanson appeared affected by many of our words and emotions. He was respectful, with a humble and listening demeanour, throughout for well over an hour, where we stood, spoke from the heart, and occupied the station’s entrance lobby.
On this deep cold winter day with a serious storm blowing in, people had come in from Cap Pelé, Sussex, Moncton, Bathurst and Saint John. As one person commented, many local people wanted to be there but they were still scared because of the treatment they recieved from the RCMP in 2013. So those present spoke on their behalf.
These happenings at Gitumt’en and Unist’ot’en on January 7th harkens back to Oka/Kanehsatake, Gustafsen Lake, Ipperwash/Aazhoodena, the burying of the Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples, the thousands of cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, the false federal government promises about complying with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the bungled handling of the Tina Fontaine, Colten Boushie and Brady Francis deaths, and so much more — including the current slow invisibilizing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations. The trauma triggers are everywhere. And the RCMP, or provincial police, or the army, have played a major role in all attempts at accomplishing genocide of indigenous Peoples in Canada, from residential schools to enforcing corporate injunctions.
After we were done speaking with Cpl. Melanson, we took a walk around the immediate area and got lots of support for all our banners and signs, then closed with a song about rising for resistance for the earth, a Round Dance and the Mi’kmaq Honour Song, and plans to network for the next action which might be in Sussex where new fracking plans are being promoted by the Chamber of Commerce and the new New Brunswick Progressive Conservative government.
This is not over
Even after the RCMP invasion of the Gidimt’en camp on Wet’suwet’en Territory, and the arrests and charges laid, the Clan Leaders are saying it is “this is not over.” They admit that they “did not expect a military level invasion where our unarmed women and elders were faced with automatic weapons and bulldozers,” but we knew what was coming. That is exactly what we faced here in Sikniktuk. The many complaints about RCMP activity here in 2013 are still being investigated and written up, now more than five years after SWN gave up and left New Brunswick. It is my view that they do not want this report released because it might clip RCMP wings in a situation like the one currently in Wet’suwet’en.
The Wet’suwet’en Clan Leaders are standing firm. They say they have a responsibility to protect the land” but “also a duty to protect our land defenders. Our people faced an incredible risk of injury or death and that is not a risk we are willing to take for an interim injunction.” So while CGL has been given Wet’suwet’en permission to work on their territory for the interim period, it “will be a waste of their time and resources as they will not be building a pipeline in our traditional territory.”
For more info about what you can do to support the Wet’suwet’en Peoples, please read this communique. The Clan Leaders have Supreme Court decisions on their side, and the support of environmentalist and human rights activists across Turtle Island and the world.
This is not over.
Ann Pohl is with the United Sikniktuk Water Protectors and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.