Three federal New Democrat MPs have signed a petition denouncing British Columbia’s NDP government for its handling of an Indigenous protest at a pipeline work site and voicing distress at the federal NDP’s response.
The B.C. RCMP arrested several people, including a photojournalist and a documentary filmmaker, last month when officers moved to enforce an injunction barring protesters from blocking an access road used by Coastal GasLink workers.
The office of B.C. Premier John Horgan said in a statement that “elected officials in B.C. do not direct police operations.”
Lori Idlout, the Nunavut MP and NDP spokesperson on Crown-Indigenous relations, joined MPs Matthew Green and Leah Gazan, in signing the petition.
The NDP MPs joined 15 former federal candidates and around 1,000 NDP grassroots members saying they are “angered” by actions toward Indigenous protesters who oppose the pipeline in their traditional territories in northern B.C.
The petition endorses a statement by young Quebec NDP members, which called on federal leader Jagmeet Singh “to publicly denounce the violence enacted against members of Wet’suwet’en First Nation by the RCMP.”
It expresses “dismay and anger at the federal NDP’s statement in response to these events, which obscures the oppressive role the RCMP and BCNDP are playing in perpetuating colonial violence.”
The statement also condemns “individuals and entities that are willing to turn a blind eye to colonialism for the sake of political expediency.”
Singh stopped short Wednesday of criticizing Horgan’s government at a news conference in Ottawa but he expressed concern about the RCMP arrests, saying the NDP supported Indigenous communities.
Singh, who has visited the Wet’suwet’en community and spoken to many people there, said it’s “clear that there isn’t a clear consensus” in the community.
“There’s a lot of different views. I see at the heart of this the impacts of colonialism,” he said, adding that “it certainly doesn’t help if you have militarised RCMP arresting people.”
The petition, also signed by a number of local NDP riding associations, says young NDP activists are “tearing up” their party memberships over the issue.
In a tweet, Green said he joined the signatories “in publicly denouncing the violence enacted against members of Wet’suwet’en First Nation by the RCMP.”
He called on “the BCNDP provincial gov and Liberal federal gov to immiedately withdraw the RCMP from Wet’suwet’en territory.”
Premier Horgan’s office said it expected RCMP officers operating in the province “to conduct themselves in accordance with the standards of police conduct.”
“Elected officials in BC do not direct police operations,” it said in a statement. “The CGL project is permitted, approved to proceed and underway. Fundamentally, decisions about who represents and speaks for the Wet’suwet’en people, and how, is for the Wet’suwet’en people to decide.”
—Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press