The Working Group to Stop Bill C-51 joins together with people, human rights, and social justice organizations around the world in denouncing the recent siege of the RCMP against Wet'suwet'en Nation people defending their unceded traditional territories against the forced construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. This type of escalated and unjustified police violence against peaceful opposition is exactly what we have been organizing against since the adoption of Bill C-51 under Stephen Harper, and its continuation under Prime Minster Justin Trudeau.
The Coastal GasLink Pipeline is part of the recently approved $40 billion LNG Canada mega-project. Supported by both the federal and B.C provincial government, the LNG Canada project would take “fracked” natural gas from Northern B.C. to the coast for export. Beyond environmental concerns, the proposed pipeline would run through hundreds of kilometres of Wet'suwet'en Nation territory. The Hereditary Chiefs of all five Wet'suwet'en clans have clearly and consistently opposed this pipeline.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada officially endorsed in 2016, clearly states that “free prior and informed consent” is required from
Indigenous Nations before decisions are made effecting their traditional territories. This consent has obviously not been achieved, and the RCMP were still willing to forcibly arrest 14 people for peacefully standing up for the rights the Canadian government has already promised to uphold.
In its 2015 statement opposing then proposed Bill C-51, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs warned, “Due to the expanded powers that Bill C-51 would provide to government agencies, Indigenous Peoples of this country will be further muzzled and restricted in our ability to voice our concerns with respect to the actions of industry, government and governmental agencies...Further, it is likely we would see more heavy-handed approaches to policing based on the changes proposed by Bill C-51 especially in light of the Harper’s government agenda to expand resource extraction and development.”
Harper has been replaced with Trudeau, but the warnings have come true. Trudeau's proposed fix, “Bill C-59”, includes most of the worst parts of Bill C-51, and adds a further cyber surveillance component.
Bill C-51 allows the police to target those they decide are “interfering with the economic or financial stability of Canada.” Given that the government of Canada’s most go-to justification for approving massive resource extraction projects is the “national interest”, the criminalization of those who oppose them is not an irrational concern. Especially when government intelligence reports consistently refer to those opposing pipeline construction as "violent aboriginal extremists”.
It is more important that ever to stand up for human and democratic rights, and to defend the Wet'suwet'en against further government and police attacks. This is an important struggle with consequences for us all. The Working Group to Stop Bill C-51 reaffirms its commitment to the full Repeal Bill C-51, and the scrapping of Bill C-59. We will continue to defend all those targeted by these unjust government policies, which threaten our basic rights to freedom of speech and assembly. We cannot afford to go backwards!
Working Group to Stop Bill C-51
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