During my time with Christian Peacemaker Teams, two different law enforcement officers have made statements that have stuck in my head. The first came from a member of the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in British Columbia, whose sole duty is to break up protests that affect industry and production. “Settler life is pretty good, isn’t it?” the officer gloated. I was in the first week of a three-week assignment with CPT as a legal observer on Wet’su’wet’en Territory. Indigenous people are blocking Coastal GasLink from building a pipeline on their sovereign land, which would threaten the health of the environment and especially risk polluting the pristine river from which you can still drink directly without filtering. Coastal GasLink and the RCMP should not even be present in an area that was never ceded and in a province that passed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The reason for the officer’s comment was clearly to question my motives and to get me back on-side with the colonizers. The C-IRG had raided the camp the week before our arrival, threatening and brutalizing several members of the solidarity group. At least in one case, I would describe their actions as torture. The following week, during the first week of our stay, they raided the camp six times. Officers hid badge numbers and names, made gruesome jokes about genocide, emptied water cisterns, slashed tires, stole ATV keys and harassed media and legal observers. They finally stopped coming after Indigenous Allies from the East drove them out, shouting that they were trespassing and that the Haudenosaunee people and other allies were supporting the protest across the country.
The second statement that sticks with me came from an Israeli Border Police officer in Hebron, Palestine: “Well, you are not in Canada anymore, and besides, we learned everything from you.” The statement stung because it was true. Aside from Israel, South Africa had also studied how Canada handled our “indigenous problem.” Our CPT team had been at the Israeli police station inquiring about a 14-year old that had just been arrested. Our efforts were of no avail. The state of Israel has used colonization of occupied lands from the beginning, forcing Palestinians to smaller and smaller areas.
My recent time in Wet’su’wet’en territory was an eye-opening experience for me. I witnessed how the law, our government, and industry continue to reinforce colonization. It’s time to wake up to the fact that colonization has trampled over the rights of the Indigenous people for far too long.