TC Energy’s fossil dreams are violating indigenous people’s human rights and destroying their land. The Canadian pipeline giant is building the 670 km (420 mi) Coastal GasLink Pipeline through the Yintah, the traditional lands of the Wet‘suwet‘en people in Western Canada. TC Energy never got permission from the Wet‘suwet‘en to take their land and put a pipeline on it.
TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada Corporation, builds and operates pipelines all over North America.12315 Before the Coastal GasLink Pipeline, the energy company also wanted to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline across Canada and the US. However, on his first day in office, President Biden cancelled TC Energy’s Keystone XL pipeline permit.14787 This was one of his first steps to address climate change.
In Canada, however, TC Energy has already built parts of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline. Even though it is not yet completed, it is already polluting land and water. To make space for the fossil corridor, TC Energy is cutting down ancient forests. It is wiping out the home of grizzly bears, black bears, deer, and the endangered Southern mountain caribou.14789 Without a tree cover, the bare soil is washing into the rivers, polluting the water and suffocating fish larvae.14791 Despite numerous warnings from environmental inspectors, the pipeline company continued to wash soil into rivers and streams. In 2022, the provincial environmental office ordered the polluter to pay fines of more than CAD 240,000 for the ongoing contamination.12317
The Wet‘suwet‘en have a longstanding connection with the Yintah, their traditional lands. The Wet‘suwet‘en culture is centered around healthy forests, rivers, and animals. In the yintah, the Wet‘suwet‘en people hunt, fish, and gather herbs and medicines. Now, TC Energy is invading their lands and lives. The company sent bulldozers that razed burial sites of Wet‘suwet‘en ancestors to the ground.14793
TC Energy could not care less about indigenous rights. While the company claims to have the support of the indigenous Wet‘suwet‘en community along the pipeline route, their hereditary chiefs fiercely reject this.14795 The hereditary chiefs have been ruling over the traditional Wet‘suwet‘en lands since time immemorial.14797 They never ceded their land to the Canadian government and never gave their consent to have the Coastal GasLink pipeline built on it.14799 The hereditary chiefs are defending what has always belonged to them. But TC Energy got police support to arrest indigenous leaders and their supporters for the ‘crime’ of being on their own land.14801
In November 2021, Canadian police raided a Wet’suwet’en camp for the third time in three years. The Wet’suwet’en and their supporters blocked access to a pipeline construction site on Wet’suwet’en territory to prevent drilling under Wedzin Kwa, a sacred river. In response, the police arrived in military-style gear with assault guns and arrested 30 people on Wet’suwet’en territory. Among them were land defenders, elders and journalists.14803 The repeated and escalating use of force against Wet’suwet’en land defenders by police and private security has even alarmed the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The committee has already urged the Canadian government three times to stop the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline, as long as the Wet’suwet’en disagree with the project. Until today, the Canadian government keeps ignoring these calls.12321
TC Energy and its Coastal GasLink Pipeline are creating an atmosphere of violence. Hundreds of male workers are moving into man camps to build the pipeline. Their presence makes indigenous women in particular feel unsafe in their homes and on their land.14805 With police support, the company is interrupting people’s traditional ceremonies.14807 The Wet’suwet’en cannot even find relief in their local healing center because of the pipeline construction noise. The healing center is a sacred space where they to come together for traditional practices and connect with nature. To the Wet’suwet’en, TC Energy’s pipeline project is an attack on their culture. Before the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Wet’suwet’en have made clear that this is genocide. In June 2022, members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation launched a lawsuit against Coastal GasLink, the company’s security firm and the Canadian police to stop their harassing and intimidating behavior against Wet’suwet’en people.1232312325
Many people are standing up against TC Energy’s destructive pipeline. In February and March 2020, thousands of people joined the Wet‘suwet‘en in their protest. They demonstrated and set up protest camps together. For weeks, they blocked Canadian railways to call attention to the human rights violations of TC Energy. Solidarity protests also erupted in response to TC Energy’s continued construction on Wet’suwet’en territory and the 2021 raids. Indigenous groups and more than 150 organizations from all over the world call on banks to defund the Coastal GasLink Pipeline.12327 The Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, CIBC and TD Bank are among those who pump money into the project.12329 The global Wet’suwet’en solidarity network demands that they must step away from TC Energy, a company that is making fossil fuel profits on the backs of indigenous people.
“Our people’s belief is that we are part of the land. The land is not separate from us. The land sustains us. And if we don’t take care of her, she won’t be able to sustain us, and we as a generation of people will die.”
Freda Huson, part of the indigenous peoples' protest and Right Livelihood Award Laureate.
Groups working on Coastal GasLink: The Office of the Wet'suwet'en, Unist'ot'en Camp
Freda Huson, spokesperson for the Unist’ot’en house group of the Wet’suwet’en people, delivered a speech before the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She stated: “They are trying to erase us from our own land. All these acts that continue are acts of genocide. They want to extinguish our rights to our lands.“ Her full speech is available at https://unistoten.camp/wetsuweten-leaders-condemn-canada-for-human-rights-violations-at-united-nations-forum/
The United Nations Genocide Convention of December 1948, which came into effect in January 1951, defines genocide in Article Two as "any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such":
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.