CUPE is relieved that the police standoff has been averted for the time being, and hopeful that the federal government will recognize that it is long past time for real action when it comes to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
“Canadians were shocked to see the aggressive action of heavily armed police at the Unist’ot’en camp as they removed peaceful protestors and blocked access to journalists,” says Mark Hancock, national president of CUPE. “We would never accept this kind of behaviour towards striking workers on a picket line. Protest is a fundamental right, and the Wet’suwet’en people have a right to protect their unceded territory.”
The five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have never signed a treaty with Canada and have never ceded their territory in central British Columbia. For almost a decade, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have maintained several checkpoints and camps to halt any development in their territories from proceeding without their consent. Last week, heavily armed police began dismantling these checkpoints, and forcefully removed peaceful land defenders.
“If the Prime Minister and his government are truly committed to reconciliation, to the UN Declaration, and to building a better relationship with Indigenous peoples, the time and place to prove it is right here and right now,” says Charles Fleury, national secretary-treasurer of CUPE.