This past Saturday, hundreds of residents of Vancouver responded to the call for solidarity by the Wet’suwet’en land defenders. Among the attendees were several supporters of the Revolutionary Student Movement – Vancouver handing out leaflets. The call for solidarity was issued due to the BC Supreme Court granting Coastal GasLink an injunction against the Wet’suwet’en nation who are protecting their lands at the Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en checkpoints.
The Canadian government deployed RCMP officers last year to invade unceded Wet’suwet’en land, and this injunction is to no one’s surprise for the construction of the LNG pipeline which will violate the rights of Indigenous people for the short-term profit of resource extraction for corporations.
Initially, people gathered outside the BC provincial court downtown. Following this, people marched through the streets to Victory Square. There, Indigenous women, men, and youth gave speeches. Speakers unanimously recognized how colonialism and capitalism are at play in the situation in Wet’suwet’en. An individual on behalf of Alliance Against Displacement highlighted how the police work to protect private property at the expense of people’s need for housing and shelter. Another presenter on behalf of the BC Union of Indian Chiefs affirmed that on Wet’suwet’en land, their law is above the Canadian state’s court rulings. Attendees cheered loudly and raised their fists in solidarity. Some people carried anti-pipeline signs while others displayed a banner reading “#WET’SUWET’EN STRONG”.
Overall, the organizers and the speakers recognized the root causes of the ongoing issue to be capitalism and colonialism, and reaffirmed that Indigenous people hold the right to their self-determination. However, the proposed solution by speakers was to call on the Canadian government to abide by its law and protect Indigenous land. Both the Delgamuukw vs British Columbia court ruling of 1997 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) were cited as defence against Canadian colonial violence. Unfortunately, the Canadian government breaks its own laws when convenient in order to further the interests of capital. Parliamentary politics and advocacy are not sufficient for decolonization.
Instead of fighting in colonial courts for recognition, people concerned with Indigenous rights and land should look to historical examples of Indigenous resistance such as the Oka crisis and the Gustafen Lake standoff. While acknowledging the limits of decentralized organization and spontaneous action of the Oka crisis (1), it was through militant confrontation that people were able to resist the colonial state. In order to decolonize, we must learn from the experiences of the Oka crisis and correct their errors by engaging in a centralized and protracted struggle.