Secwepemc Matriarch and Women Sentenced to Jail Time for Ceremony at Apparent TMX Pipeline Site

Feb 23, 2023

Secwepemc Matriarch and Women Sentenced to Jail Time for Ceremony at Apparent TMX Pipeline Site

28-day sentences given by Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick

With news of four Secwepemc land defenders and allies being sentenced on February 22nd, 2023, to 28 days each of jail time, and with more sentencing to come, we are posting the defendants' press release here, unedited and in full.


Subject: MEDIA RELEASE: Openly Anti-Indigenous Judge Shelley Fitzpatrick Sentences Secwepemc Matriarch and Women in Support to Jail time for Ceremony at Apparent TMX Site

On February 22, 2023, Secwepemc Nation members and their supporters witnessed the sentencing and incarceration of Secwepemc Hereditary Matriarch Miranda Dick in Kamloops BC Supreme Court the day after the same judge denied the findings of children’s remains at residential schools in Canada including the 215 children found in a mass grave at Kamloops Indian Residential School in May of 2021. Indian Residential School survivors attending court were shocked and a general outcry against the racism, violence and callousness of the judge was responded to by courtroom sheriffs forcing survivors to leave the courtroom and Judge Shelley Fitzpatrick quoted as saying: “You will respect the authority and seriousness of this courthouse.”

In total, 4 women including Miranda Dick were sentenced to 28 days each after a hair cutting ceremony was conducted on Secwepemc Territory in protection of women, water and future generations and in accordance to Secwepemc law. Matriarch Miranda Dick has already filed an appeal to challenge Shelley Fitzpatrick’s blatant bias against Indigenous communities and in favour of TMX Pipeline’s illegal encroachment on Indigenous Territories across the pipeline route, noting that Fitzpatrick has presided over TMX pipeline cases since 2019 and has incarcerated a long list of Indigenous Nation members and supporters on unceded territory since. The appeal will seek to not only challenge today’s sentencing decision but the unfair and unjust sentences that have been the bread and butter of Fitzpatrick’s long and storied career protecting corporate interests against the health and well being of Indigenous and Black communities (see Northern Pulp Pictou Mill decision).

Throughout the almost 3 years of hearings surrounding the ceremony undertaken by Hereditary Chief Sawses and Matriarch Miranda Dick, Shelley Fitzpatrick displayed evidence she had already made a judgement on Secwepemc Nation members even before evidential requirements and arguments were presented in court, making inflammatory remarks, harassing the so called defendants in court and displaying conduct that was, to the many witnesses in the courtroom, clearly racist, paternalistic and out of line with the appropriate and unbiased application of the rule of law which has always preserved Indigenous rights to their own territory. Fitzpatrick repeatedly interrupted defence counsel while assisting Crown’s submissions and characterized the women in court as criminals saying, “The only people they should blame is who they see when they look in the mirror,” while she herself refused to do the same.

Indigenous women have been the fastest growing prison population for over 2 decades and remain underrepresented in virtually every other aspect of the Canadian legal system. No Indigenous judge has ever been appointed to the Supreme Court and the marginalization and disregard of Indigenous law, ceremony and culture continues today the same way it did at the height of residential schools, the potlatch ban and during the 1995 Gustafsen Lake Standoff where openly racist judge Lamer also sentenced Secwepemc Nation members to jail while they were also acting in ceremony on the same territory at hand today. Just as Lamer refused to acknowledge the ongoing unsettled land question in unceded Secwepemc Territory, Fitzpatrick also denied Secwepemc Nation members every opportunity to speak to the existence of Secwepemc Territory, law and ceremony and repeatedly referred to Secwepemc ceremonial sites as “Transmountain sites” and the intentions of Secwepemc Nation members to “take the law into their own hands and assert their will by force,” when it was clear that these words described the actions taken by the RCMP, courts and Canadian law in Secwepemc territory since their arrival.

Canada’s Federal and Provincial courts and legislators have a long history of systemic and institutional violence towards Indigenous Nations and their People and ignoring the common law and constitutional laws on which they themselves were founded. Sovereign Indigenous Nations across the continent have a much longer history of survival through the preservation of law and ceremony. For too long the question has been what is the legitimacy of this Indigenous claim in the face of the Canadian state and not the more just and appropriate question in unceded territory - what is the legitimacy of the Canadian state in the face of this Indigenous claim? There has always been an assumption of a reasonable apprehension of bias in the decision making process of any Canadian or provincial judge when asked to consider land claim matters in court and today was no different.

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