In a bizarre series of events, an anti-racist, immigrant rights organizer was charged yesterday by CP Rail Police in Toronto on an open warrant related to a Wet’suwet’en solidarity action that took place seven months ago in November 2021.
This is part of a broader attack. Canada’s governments are pursuing criminal contempt charges against 15 people arrested at Gidimt’en Checkpoint village site including legal observers. These charges are taking place as Coastal GasLink prepares to start drilling under the Wedzin Kwa, the sacred headwaters of the Wet’suwet’en since time immemorial.
“We denounce the criminalization of our comrades, allies, and accomplices. Standing up for Indigenous sovereignty and the environment are our basic human rights and responsibilities. Remember that our laws, our feasts, our ceremonies and even keeping our children from residential schools have been considered illegal in the past. We must rise above the colonial thinking that puts “the rule of law” above our humanity and survival. #dropthecharges”
— Gidimt’en spokesperson Sleydo‘, Molly Wickham.
We share this news of charges in Toronto to call for increased solidarity actions, not to deter them. Using courts and charges is a strategy to harass and intimidate. Our response must be to act together in courage, and to support Indigenous title and self-determination.
Use this opportunity to take urgent action:
Also, in Toronto, support the upcoming River Run by Grassy Narrows First Nation on July 21: https://freegrassy.net/rr2022/
OPEN WARRANTS, TARGETING OF RACIALIZED ORGANIZERS
In November 2021, Wet’suwet’en enforced an eviction order against Coastal GasLink pipeline. In response, militarized police raided Wet’suwet’en Land Protectors at Gidimt’en Checkpoint. Solidarity actions raged across the country despite Delta.
In Toronto, hundreds of people blocked CP Rail for a number of hours. The same week, Indigenous land defender Vanessa Gray was harassed outside her house by Toronto Police in connection with the action. She faced ten charges that were eventually withdrawn in March 2022. Shortly after, another Indigenous organizer was arrested in connection with the same event, whose charges were eventually withdrawn in May 2022. Another activist, Miguel Avila, also a person of colour, was ticketed.
Two weeks ago, a Toronto-area immigrant rights organizer was detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at Pearson International Airport when returning to the country because of an open warrant against him. He was held for two hours while CBSA negotiated with CP Rail Police to come take custody of him. The CP Rail Police did not come, and eventually this person was released. This person was not involved in the planning and implementation of this action.
With support from solidarity lawyers, the organizer turned himself in yesterday so as to deal with the charges. The warrant includes his home address, CP Rail Police simply left it open without acting on it for seven months.
Leaving warrants open, and not informing those with warrants, is intended to have a chilling effect especially as they can be acted on out-of-the-blue while crossing borders, or next time someone is at a protest. It is meant to cause doubt among other participants at actions. We must not allow this tactic to succeed. Lawyers have sought and received assurances from CP Rail Police that there are no other open warrants related to this action. One can never trust the police to tell the truth, but in this case, we do not believe that anyone else should be concerned. If you have any questions, you can contact the Movement Defence Committee of the Law Union of Ontario at https://movementdefence.org/contactus/
That the four people charged in relation to the event are Indigenous or racialized, and all community organizers, is targeted harassment. That it is being done by an armed private police force, the CP Police, must be condemned. But criminalization is no surprise. When Wet’suwet’en calls, and tens of thousands of us step off the side-walks and into the streets, we are putting our liberty on the line. When in the tens of thousands, we block rail lines, ports, highways, banks and offices, we are putting our liberty on the line. Movements are built by people on the frontlines, and many more doing logistics, organizing and carework. All of it must be done, and while risks vary, they do exist. Risks we must take – with a view to building long-term struggles – and risks we will take in support and solidarity with Indigenous resistance. Onwards.
Statement endorsed by:
Aamjiwnaang & Sarnia Against Pipelines
Blue Planet Project
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization
Coalition étudiante pour un virage environnemental et social (CEVES)
Encampment Support Network – Parkdale
Extinction Rebellion San Francisco Bay Area
Fast Twitch Productions
Greater Toronto for BDS (GT4BDS)
Hamilton Students for Justice
HR4A ( Human Rights for All) Saskatchewan
Indigenous Solidarity Committee/SCAN!
Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice
Just Peace Advocates
Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW)
Kitchener Waterloo Chapter, Council of Canadians
Midnight Sun Magazine
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network
No One Is Illegal Toronto
Palestinian and Jewish Unity
People for Peace, London
Porcupine Warriors Idle No More
Prison Abolition Prisoners Support – PAPS
Punch Up Collective
Regina Peace Council
Research for the Front Lines
Rising Tide Toronto
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Seniors For Climate Action Now! (SCAN!)
Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) Toronto
Technoscience Research Unit, University of Toronto
The Bike Brigade
The Canadian BDS Coalition
The Council of Canadians – ON-QC-NU region
Three Rivers Coven
Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction
Toronto Raging Grannies
Upping the Anti – A Journal of Theory and Action
Workers Action Centre
World BEYOND War