The history of those who have fought Big Oil, whether it be in the Niger Delta, fracking in the UK, the Dakota Access Pipeline in the US, or the frozen forests of Canada, is that the industry and the state often uses violence and intimidation against protesters.
It is two years this month that the brutal eviction of those fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline occurred in the US. Hundreds were hurt in the process, including many First Nations. The scenes of peaceful protecters being beaten were horrific. At the time I wrote that: “Once again Big Oil has been forced to rely on brutal militarized force to bludgeon, bully, beat and intimidate peaceful water protectors.”
We now have another pipeline fight on our hands. Like the Dakota Access Pipeline, we have First Nations fighting for their ancestral rights, fighting to protect that lands and their water from what they see as a colonizing and illegitimate force trying to bull-doze a pipeline across their lands.
But this time the fight is in Canada where members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation are opposed to a $6.2 billion gas natural gas pipeline due to be built by TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink.
The pipeline is planned to transport fracked natural gas from northeastern B.C. some 670 kilometres to the coast where an LNG Canada facility is due to be constructed too.
Last month, after the their set up roadblocks, the authorities responded with force. A spokesperson for one of the camps, The Unist’ot’en, said: “We expected a large response, we did not expect a military level invasion where our unarmed women and elders were faced with automatic weapons and bulldozers.”
Violence and intimidation can come in many ways. Sometimes it is more insidious. Yesterday on Facebook, the The Unist’ot’en camp posted that: Coast Gas Link (CGL) “contractors are driving recklessly through our territory, recording videos on their phones and camcorders while they pass our guard house.” (see picture)
Filming non-violent prostesters who are doing nothing wrong is a real intrusion into civil and indigenous rights. However, this activity is happening with the collusion of the authorities. “We have seen them drive this way under RCMP escort,” says The Unist’ot’en camp.
They added that the intimindation has got so bad that “We are concerned for the safety of our residents and our dogs.”
Giving further details of why they feel scared, last week in an open letter, the camp complained that “CGL contractors have already destroyed an electrical box with one of their vehicles, disabling our security camera and compromising the safety of our residents.”
The Unist’ot’en camp said that “CGL now appears insistent on removing all of our safety and security infrastructure, compromising the wellbeing of our Unist’ot’en members and the safe operation of our Healing Centre.”
All of this is happening with consent of the Trudeau Government: “We have also witnessed Coastal GasLink’s destruction of Gidimt’en private property on their unceded territory with no proof of permit, observed and condoned by the RCMP”, the letter adds.
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, promised a new dawn for Canadian First Nations in the way they would be treated and their rights respected. That day remains a distant dream.