Myth 1) The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are protesting pipelines.
This struggle goes beyond a pipeline protest: being a land defender is a way of living with roots in generations upon generations of tradition. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are first and foremost land and water defenders, rather than protestors. They have sovereignty and self-determination over Wet’suwet’en traditional lands.
Myth 2) The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are breaking the law.
The hereditary chiefs are following their traditional law. As a colonial state, Canada puts common or civil law above Indigenous law. In addition, there is a significant difference between band council chiefs and hereditary chiefs. Band council chiefs were imposed by the Canadian government to abolish hereditary chief governance. Hereditary chief governance traditionally has jurisdiction over relationships with specific areas of land. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have title over the land- a fact that was recognized by the Canadian government in the Supreme Court case Delgamuukw versus British Columbia (1997). To respect Indigenous rights, Canada must respect Indigenous law.
Myth 3) The RCMP have every right to arrest the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
The actions of the RCMP violate the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), of which Canada is a signatory. UNDRIP Article 10 states, “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior, and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned” (p. 11).Therefore, the RCMP commits grave injustice when it invades Wet’suwet’en lands or camps.
Myth 4) There is an completed agreement between the federal government and the hereditary chiefs.
On March 1st, 2020, the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and government representatives of the offices of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada put forward a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with British Colombia and Canada. The main purpose of the MOU is to offer guidance to the Wet'suwet'en Nation and the governments of B.C. and Canada regarding how Wet'suwet'en rights and title can justly be recognized and implemented. The MOU is not a final agreement, but outlines what needs to be worked on in regards to Wet’suwet’en law and will lead to further negotiations. Band council chiefs are not in agreement with the MOU, though hereditary chiefs state that they were invited to participate in discussions.
Myth 5) CGL should continue the building of the pipeline.
The pipeline should not continue unless it has the prior, informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en people, including the hereditary chiefs.
Myth 6) Canada has been very patient.
Both legally and ethically, Canada as a settler nation does not have the right to “be patient” when negotiating boundaries and procedures with another legitimate nation: the Wet’suwet’en peoples and their hereditary chiefs. It was against the consent of the Wet’suwet’en peoples that the RCMP enforced a court-ordered injunction and arrested Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and Wet’suwet’en land defenders, along with other supporters. The CGL pipeline was only approved by a group of people who did not have title or jurisdiction to make that decision (the band council chiefs), rather than the hereditary chiefs who uphold traditional Wet’suwet’en law (which predates the settling of Canada). In light of this, CGL cannot continue to build the pipeline without agreement from the Wet’suwet’en people and under traditional Wet’suwet’en law. Truly, the Indigenous people of Turtle Island (North America) have been “patient” with the settler nation of Canada, facing hundreds of years of colonial invasion and occupation.
Myth 7) Work on the pipeline stopped during the pandemic and the conflict is therefore resolved.
Coastal GasLink (CGL) continues to construct the pipeline, and did so even during the worst points of the pandemic and in spite of the call from B.C. First Nations leaders to halt construction. Continued construction is unjust to the Wet’suwet’en peoples, both because it goes against their consent and because it places them at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. In addition, ongoing construction is not safe for the pipeline workers themselves (who risk their own health by working during the pandemic) nor is it safe for neighbouring communities (who are put at risk by these workers travelling and working in the area). According to CGL’s timeline, much of the pipeline will be in the ground by the end of August. As such, the conflict is ongoing and the Wet’suwet’en peoples and supporters continue to resist the encroachment of the pipeline construction on Wet’suwet’en land.