Supporters of Wet’suwet’en and their rights to protect their land from a pipeline gather at Yukon MP Larry Bagnell’s office in Whitehorse on Feb. 7 to speak with him about the situation unfolding in British Columbia. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukoners want Bagnell to take a position on RCMP action in Wet’suwet’en territory

A letter was handed to the MP on Feb. 7

A group of Yukoners spent part of Feb. 7 demanding that MP Larry Bagnell stand up for the Wet’suwet’en by putting pressure on his colleagues in Ottawa to withdraw RCMP forces from their territory.

The group engaged in a brief sit-in at Bagnell’s downtown Whitehorse office, unfurling a banner from the second storey balcony. They were asked to leave shortly thereafter.

A letter with more than 30 signatures was handed to Bagnell. It calls on him to urge the British Columbia government to halt construction of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline and suspend permits, remove RCMP forces and “stop the forceful removal and arrests of Wet’suwet’en people from their own territories and the destruction of their camps.”

“As our federal representative, we are calling on you to intervene,” it says. “It is the responsibility of the federal government to ensure that the rights of Indigenous nations are upheld, and that nation-to-nation relationships are respectful.”

The conflict spilled over last week. RCMP officers have broken through several camps along a forest access road in central B.C. and conducted a rash of arrests of land defenders. According to a CBC report, 20 people have been arrested since raids started on Feb. 6. Police appear to be heavily armed. Tactical units have been called in.

“I’m tired of fighting against a system that was set up to destroy us,” said Roberta Nakoochee inside Bagnell’s office. “Since settlers started coming to what is now Canada, they have used the exploitation of land to their advantage in order to colonize this land. Natural resources are how Canada became a country, whether it was wood, the fur trade, oil and gas.”

Nakoochee wants Bagnell to come out with his position on the matter.

“If he does agree, why? If he doesn’t agree, like, why is he continuing to be part of this party? I want clarity. I have nothing against Larry. He has such good relationships with the nations here, but I just don’t understand with those relationships and the power he has … how he can stand behind this and say nothing?

“We can write tweets, we can yell into the streets, we can talk to media, but it’s MPs who we’ve elected. I want him to say something about that.”

She didn’t get an answer.

Supporters of Wet’suwet’en yell their support from the rooftop patio at Yukon MP Larry Bagnell’s office in Whitehorse on Feb. 7. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

“My understanding is the parties are making their best efforts to sort it out,” said Bagnell, adding that he hadn’t tuned into the latest happenings at various times last week.

“I’ll definitely read this,” he said, referring to the letter, noting that he plans to present it to his colleagues in Ottawa this week.

He said it’s a provincial matter because the government contracts the RCMP.

“I really hope that the province and the chiefs can work it out. They’re sitting down with them and trying to sort it out, so we’ll see how that goes.”

He said there has been “unprecedented consultation” with affected First Nations along the pipeline route.

“I think that’s a great move in the right direction.”

Julie Laliberte, who helped organize the sit-in, said it’s disappointing that Bagnell isn’t aware of what’s happening in B.C.

“I think not tuning into the news and not being informed as a member of parliament is … your responsibility,” she said. “And your responsibility is to hear from people in your territory. He should be prepared for this. This is not something that’s new. It happened last year. He should have a response and his stance prepared. He needs to take a stance on this, and a neutral position isn’t going to cut it.

“Not being silent is something I feel really passionate about. The alternative is being complicit with genocide and racism, and it’s not a world I want to live in. I want something better.”

Another demonstration went to Bagnell’s office on Feb. 10, urging him to clarify his position.

On Dec. 31, 2019 a B.C. judge signed off on an injunction that would effectively bar the Wet’suwet’en from preventing Coastal Gaslink workers from entering the area.

Hereditary chiefs have since rejected it, issuing an eviction notice to employees. This has been ignored.

The company, a subsidiary of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., wants to run a natural gas pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, B.C.

Contact Julien Gignac at

julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Wetaskiwin

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