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Resistance to TMX Pipeline Continues

Secwepmec land defenders put bodies on the line and get arrested to stop supposedly "essential" pipeline construction

by Mildred German

Photo by We, the Secwepemc: Virtual Unity Camp to stop Transmountain Pipeline
Photo by We, the Secwepemc: Virtual Unity Camp to stop Transmountain Pipeline

Miranda Dick, the Secwépemc Hereditary Chief’s daughter, was arrested this morning, October 17, 2020. She and three other supporters were reportedly in the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) site to defend water, wild salmon, and Indigenous rights and territories, and were violently arrested by numerous police in front of many onlookers.

“We are here stopping the Trans Mountain Pipeline from drilling underneath the Thompson River,” said Dick in a statement through the We, the Secwépemc: Virtual Unity Camp to Stop Transmountain Pipeline Facebook page. 

On Thursday, October 15, five people were also arrested in the TMX construction site on Mission Flats in Kamloops. The members of the We, the Secwépemc Unity Camp to Stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline sat on the gigantic construction machines and called for others to oppose the destruction by the TMX project.

A few weeks back, on September 30, long-time land defender Billie Pierre of the Nlaka'pamux nation, an Indigenous mother, student, and journalist, was also arrested for standing up against TMX logging in her Territory.

“This logging is for the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX), a project which I know a large number of my people are against but feel that it’s hopeless to stand up against,” Pierre stated.

Earlier this month, Indigneous youth and poet Tawahum Justin Peter Bige, who was arrested in 2018 in connection to protesting against the TMX, was sentenced to 28 days in jail. On October 6, Tawahum, along with Jim Layden and Stacy Gallagher, were sentenced to jail by the Supreme Court of BC.

Tawahum spoke in a rally in front of the BC Supreme Court in September. Photo by Grace Gignon.

Despite the circumstances of the COVID-19, Layden, who reportedly has serious medical conditions at the age of 68, still was sentenced to spend time in jail. Despite broad community support and over 50 letters of support, the three Indigenous men, Tawahum, Layden, and Gallagher, were all sentenced to spend 28 days in jail.

A poster by Mountain Protectors in support of Stacy, Jim, and Tawahum.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many workers, communities, and Indigenous leaders keep bringing forward concerns about public health, including their concerns over the industrial man camps as “incubators of the deadly coronavirus.” Despite these public concerns, the TMX has not halted its operations. By the end of September, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control recorded 33 COVID-19 infections among B.C. residents associated with industrial work camps in B.C. and Alberta.

Despite the many repercussions of the global pandemic, reports of large COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada such as Cargill Alberta, and the ongoing and increasing numbers of active COVID-19 cases in BC and all over Canada, the TMX operations continue.

However, an October 6 report exposes how the BC Provincial Government is still wrestling with whether industrial camps for projects like Site C and LNG Canada (Coastal GasLink Pipeline) are “essential.”

Yet, regarding on the notion TMX is "essential," has the BC government conflicted itself when in March 2020 it defined “essential” as, “essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning… the services British Columbians rely on in their daily lives"? 

Photo: Dawn Morrison of the Wild Salmon Caravan

As clean water, wild salmon, and lands are essential to preserving life and health, these are in conflict with the pipeline, whose operations and expansion projects stretch along and threaten many rivers, lands, and watersheds. In 2018, Kinder Morgan (then-owner of Trans Mountain) reportedly placed illegal snow fencing in salmon spawning streams and was fined $980.

In terms of “public safety”, industrial camps, known as "man camps," bring concerns around missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW), something governments continually fail to consider and address.

In addition to the plunder of Indigenous lands, the ongoing militarization, increasing police presence, and violent arrests have affected basic social functioning. At the Unist'ot'en camp in Wet'suwet'en Territory, the February 2020 armed RCMP raid and ongoing CGL pipeline construction operations have negatively affected the Unist’ot’en Camp and their Community Healing Centre too.

The TMX pipeline has gathered criticism all over the world, and international journalists can face denial of entry to cover the TMX. Such action against journalists is a symptom of the state’s worsening human rights situation, violating international standards of freedom of the press.

Canada and its giant extractive companies are not new to violations. Reports of Canadian mining show severe effects on Indigenous lands on Turtle Island and globally, as far as the Philippines and South America. These cases are some of the many that testify to Canada as a world-class plundering machine, bringing non-essential conflicts worldwide amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and climate crisis.

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