Ecumenical Letter of Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders

November 5, 2021 

As representatives of an ecumenical community committed to the principles of reconciliation set forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we write to register our solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en peoples who are defending their lands in opposition to the Coastal GasLink Pipeline. This pipeline violates the fundamental right of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Nations; it violates the Wet'suwet'en nation’s right to “maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned… lands, territories, waters… and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities for future generations in this regard.”1 

By granting approval to the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the governments of Canada and  British Columbia fail to respect the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1997 ruling that  Wet’suwet’en title constitutes an ancestral right protected by section 35(1) of the Constitution  Act, 1982. We also believe this action is fundamentally at odds with the commitments made at both provincial and federal levels to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of  Indigenous Peoples. Presently, Coastal GasLink is preparing to drill under Wedzin Kwa, the sacred headwaters of the Wet’suwet’en people.2 The pipeline endangers salmon populations and adversely impacts water quality during the construction phase at river crossings and poses a risk of future pipeline ruptures.  

The pipeline further endangers the lives of Indigenous women, children, and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples, who face an increased risk of violence from the presence of temporary work camps near their communities. There has also been an increase in police violence against  Wet’suwet’en Peoples opposed to the pipeline. The UN Committee on the Elimination of  Racial Discrimination has called on the government of Canada to withdraw RCMP and associated security and policing services from Wet’suwet’en territory.3 

In our view, government backing of this pipeline serves the interests of the fossil fuel industry and continues the racist and supremacist legacy of settler-colonial dispossession rooted in the doctrines of discovery and terra nullius; a legacy in which the State’s jurisdiction, with its claims to radical/underlying title, runs roughshod over the Original Peoples’ inherent rights,  legal traditions, and jurisdiction.  

We recognize that many First Nations band councils have signed mutual benefit agreements along the pipeline route. We know that some genuinely support these projects, while others have made a pragmatic decision, believing that the pipelines are inevitable (i.e., that without signing these agreements their communities will be left out of any economic benefits). Nonetheless, these mutual benefit agreements do not satisfy the principle of FPIC. As Canada and B.C. have recently acknowledged, “Rights and title are held by the Wet’suwet’en houses under their system of governance.”4 The Wet’suwet’en houses and hereditary chiefs have not approved the Coastal GasLink pipeline. 

We also recognize that we are in a climate emergency, and that the Wet’suwet’en are not only defending their homelands and homewaters, but our common home. Their resistance is part of a movement led by Indigenous water protectors and land defenders that has stopped  the equivalent of one-quarter of emissions from Canada and the United States.5 

Although the fossil fuel industry in Canada plans on increasing production in the coming years6, we need to rapidly replace that infrastructure through green energy such as wind and solar. The window for profiting from the extraction of fossil fuels is closing, creating an urgency for exploiting the resource while it remains in demand. As humanity faces “an existential threat” due to global heating (UN Secretary General António Guterres), there is no moral or ethical reason to countenance new fossil fuel infrastructure. And yet we recognize that the government and corporations have a monopoly on the power of the courts, RCMP and private security firms to push the pipelines to completion despite the lack of consent from Indigenous Nations and a growing number of concerned citizens.  

As people of faith, we urge the government to halt this project and the associated erosion of trust with Indigenous Nations. Our scriptures call us to right relationship with Creation and all of our relatives. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has  made plain that “greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation are  choking the planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”7 As followers of Christ, we are called to be particularly attentive to the cries of the poor and the marginalized in society. Indigenous peoples and under-resourced populations are disproportionately affected by the consequences of climate change and resource extraction projects.8 

We also call on the government to cease subsidizing this industry with money from taxes coming from citizens that do not agree with the government’s actions in this regard. The Coastal GasLink pipeline contradicts the government's stated policy directions. We urge the government to move forward on its commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Nations, as articulated in both federal and provincial legislation to honour and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples9 and the Calls to Justice outlined in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.10 These policy initiatives have our full support. 

Yours sincerely, 

Steve Heinrichs, Mennonite Church Canada, Indigenous-Settler Relations 

Allegra Friesen Epp, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Turtle Island Solidarity Network 

The Most Rev. Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop 

Willard Metzger, Executive Director, Citizens for Public Justice 

Rev. Emily Catherine Cooke, Minister, Mount Paul United Church & Plura Hills United Church, Kamloops, BC 

Rev. Dr. Michael Caveney, Lead Minister, Kamloops United Church, BC 

The Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne, Executive Director, First United Church, Vancouver, BC 

Dr. Cheryl Bear, Director of Community Ministry, First United Church, Vancouver, BC 

Rev. Joy Banks, Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, Vancouver, BC 

Rev. Jodi Spargur, Justice and Mercy Network, Canadian Baptists of Western Canada

Joe Gunn, Executive Director, Centre Oblat - A Voice for Justice 

Aisha Francis, Executive Director, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives 

Dr. Michelle Miller, Grandview Calvary Baptist Church, Vancouver, BC 

Rev. Mary Fontaine, Director, Hummingbird Ministries, Presbytery of Westminster, Delta, BC 

Christina Conroy, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology, Ambrose University 

Rev. Dr. Timothy Dickau, Director, Citygate, Vancouver, BC 

Anne Wicks, Member, St Joseph the Worker, Richmond, BC 

Rev. Christine Muise, Minister, St. Columba’s Anglican United Church, Port Hardy, & St. John's Anglican United Fellowship, Port Alice, BC KAIROS, Kootenay Subregion, BC/Yukon 

Janette McIntosh, Representative, KAIROS BC/Yukon

Rev. Laurie McKay, Pastor, St. Aidan’s Presbyterian Church, New Westminster, BC 

Stanley W. Green, Executive Conference Minister, Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference 

Sue Wilson, Executive Director, Office for Systemic Justice, Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada 

Rev. Dr. Jon Coutts, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology, Ambrose University 

Dr. Nikayla Reize, Professor of Old Testament, Ambrose University; Lead Pastor, Awaken Church, Calgary, AB 

Jobb D. Arnold, Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution Studies, Menno Simons College, Winnipeg, MB  

Agnes Richard, Coordinator, Laudato Si’ Movement, Canada 

Sister Maureen Fowler, Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception 

Jeff Friesen, Pastor, Charleswood Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, MB 

Rev. Carol Rose, Shalom Mennonite Fellowship, Tucson, AZ 

Tina Schlabach, Co-pastor, Shalom Mennonite Fellowship, Tucson, AZ 

Megan M Ramer, Lead Pastor, Seattle Mennonite Church, WA 

Sister Cecilia Hudec, Sisters of Charity Halifax 

Rev. Alissa Bender, Pastor, Hamilton Mennonite Church, ON 

Indigenous-Settler Relations Group, Home Street Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, MB 

Truth and Reconciliation Action Group, Waterloo North Mennonite Church, ON 

Rev. Dr. H. Daniel Zacharias, Associate Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College; Adjunct Faculty, NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community 

Stephen A. Bell O.M., Singer-songwriter, Signpost Music, Winnipeg, MB 

Mariann Han Marcum Reardon, Minister of Pastoral Care, Pasadena Mennonite Church, CA 

Timothy W Reardon, Minister of Leadership, Pasadena Mennonite Church, CA 

Rev. Dr. Glen Davis, Minister, Presbyterian Church in Canada 

Sheri Hostetler, Pastor, First Mennonite Church, San Francisco, CA 

Rev. Joanna Lawrence Shenk, Associate Pastor, First Mennonite Church, San Francisco, CA

Henriëtte Thompson, Anglican member, KAIROS Indigenous Rights Circle 

Carol Wise, Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests 

Cynthia Lapp, Pastor, Hyattsville Mennonite Church, MD 

Rev. David Driedger, Pastor, First Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, MB

Dani Klotz, Jonathan Nahar, Katerina Friesen, Ken Gingerich, Sabrina Porter Lindquist, Sarah Augustine, Sheri Hostetler, Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition Steering Committee

Inclusive Ministries Committee, Parkminster United Church, Waterloo, ON 

Missions, Peace & Justice Ministry, Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener, ON 

Justice Team, Hope Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, MB

Lori Matties, Creation Care Committee, River East Church, Winnipeg, MB

Dr. Mark Hathaway, Executive Director, Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice

Héctor Acero Ferrer, Associate Director, Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics, Toronto, ON

Development and Peace - Caritas Canada

Scott Morton Ninomiya, St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, ON

Erik Oland SJ, Provincial, Jesuits of Canada

Michel Andraos, Dean, Faculty of Theology, Université Saint-Paul, Ottawa, ON

Ronald A. Kuipers, President, Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, ON

 

______________________

 

1 Article 25, UN General Assembly, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:  resolution / adopted by the General Assembly, 2 October 2007, A/RES/61/295, available at:  https://www.refworld.org/docid/471355a82.html [accessed 4 November 2021].

2 See “Wet’suwet’en Blockade Erected to Stop Coastal Gaslink Drilling Under Sacred Headwaters,”  September 27, 2021,  https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5c51ebf73e2d0957ca117eb5/t/615363131b4ce541bf8589c3/16 32854804716/Sept+26+Press+Release_+Stop+Drilling+Under+Sacred+Headwaters+- +Google+Docs.pdf. 

3 See “‘What cost are human rights worth?’ UN calls for immediate RCMP withdrawal in Wet’suwet’en  standoff,” January 9, 2020, https://thenarwhal.ca/what-cost-are-human-rights-worth-un-calls-for immediate-rcmp-withdrawal-in-wetsuweten-standoff/

4“Memorandum of Understanding Between Canada, British Columbia, and Wet’suwet’en,” February  29, 2020, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/natural-resourcestewardship/consulting-with firstnations/agreements/signed_mou_bc_canada_and_wetsuweten_may_14_2020.pdf?platform=hootsuite.

5 See “Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon,” August 2021, https://www.ienearth.org/indigenous resistance-against-carbon/ 

6 See "Canada's climate solution? Keep increasing fossil fuel extraction," National Observer,  September 15, 2021, https://www.nationalobserver.com/2021/09/15/analysis/canadas-climate solution-keep-increasing-fossil-fuel-extraction. 

7“Secretary-General Calls Latest IPCC Report ‘Code Red for Humanity,’ United Nations, (August 9,  2021), accessed October 26, 2021, https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sgsm20847.doc.htm

8 See “Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home,” June  18, 2015, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html 

9 See Bill C-15 in Canadian federal legislation and Bill 41 in BC provincial legislation.

10 See Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and  Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, 2019, https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/