Notes from strategy session for raid on Wetsuweten nations ancestral lands show commanders argued for lethal overwatch
Canadian police were prepared to shoot Indigenous land defenders blockading construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia, according to documents seen by the Guardian.
Notes from a strategy session for a militarized raid on ancestral lands of the Wetsuweten nation show that commanders of Canadas national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), argued that lethal overwatch is reqd a term for deploying snipers.
The RCMP commanders also instructed officers to use as much violence toward the gate as you want ahead of the operation to remove a roadblock which had been erected by Wetsuweten people to control access to their territories and stop construction of the proposed 670km (416-mile) Coastal GasLink pipeline (CGL).
In a separate document, an RCMP officer states that arrests would be necessary for sterilizing the site.
Wetsuweten people and their supporters set up the Gidimten checkpoint in December 2018 to block construction of the pipeline through this region of mountains and pine forests 750 miles north of Vancouver.
On 7 January, RCMP officers dressed in military-green fatigues and armed with assault rifles descended on the checkpoint, dismantling the gate and arresting 14 people.
The checkpoint lies 22km east of a camp operated by a house group of the Wetsuweten called the Unistoten, which has been at the center of the struggle against the pipeline.
The camp is one of several instances where Indigenous people in British Columbia have reinhabited ancestral territory that falls outside of demarcated reservations, in what they refer to as reoccupation.
Unistoten spokesperson Freda Huson (Howilhkat) said that the RCMPs militarized posture during the raid was consistent with a long history of colonial violence.
In our experience, since first contact, RCMP have been created by the federal government to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands, Huson said. They have proven [that] through their harassment of my people to support Coastal GasLink in invading our territories.
Police records seen by the Guardian include transcripts from police strategy sessions, reports filed after the raid and audio and video files.
One document noted that the Wetsuweten possessed firearms for hunting/sustenance but police intelligence indicated that there was no single threat indicating that [land defenders] will use firearms.
An RCMP spokesperson declined to comment on the specific content of the documents, saying they were merely carrying out a December 2018 injunction against people who interfere with the CGL pipeline.
During the planning for the enforcement of the court-ordered injunction, the RCMP took the remote location of the Morice River Bridge into account and ensured that enough police officers were present in the area to keep the peace, the spokesperson said. We also took into consideration the unpredictable nature of what we could face in the remote area, and so we moved additional police resources including members of the tactical and emergency response teams to provide support.