Check out this short film on the ongoing struggle of the Unist’ot’en Camp of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to reoccupy their lands and stop pipeline construction. The battle against a natural-gas project appears set to enter a new phase after a British Columbia Supreme Court injunction and the Premier’s pledge that the project will go ahead.
A Violent Push to Industrialize Unceded Indigenous Lands
In this era of “reconciliation” of Indigenous claim against Crown sovereignty, land is still being taken at gunpoint from the First Nations. INVASION is a film about the Unist’ot’en Camp, Gidimt’en checkpoint and the larger Wet’suwet’en Nation standing up to the Canadian government and corporations who continue colonial violence against Indigenous people.
The pipeline has been approved by both the B.C. and federal governments, but it has come under criticism from Amnesty International, B.C.’s Human Rights Commission, and the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, who say all First Nations affected by the pipeline should give free, prior and informed consent before it can proceed, based on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The Fracked-Coastal GasLink Connection to the World
At issue were Coastal GasLink’s plans to build a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory, part of a $6.6-billion project to bring hydraulically fractured (“fracked”) natural gas through a 670-kilometer pipeline from northeastern B.C. to an $18 billion liquefied-natural-gas export facility near Kitimat on the coast. The LNG Canada export terminal is owned by a consortium of multinational oil giants (Shell, PetroChina, Petronas, KOGAS, and Mitsubishi). Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils supported pipeline construction, but hereditary chiefs remained opposed.
The Wet’suwet’en Nation have lived on and governed their territories for thousands of years. They have never signed treaties or sold their land to Canada. In 1997, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs joined with Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs, and won the landmark Delgamuukw-Gidsaywa Supreme Court of Canada case. The court recognized that the Wet’suwet’en people have never given up title to 22,000 km2 (8500mi2) of land in northern British Columbia — an area the size of New Jersey. The court decision also recognized Wet’suwet’en Hereditary chiefs as the rightful representatives of the Wet’suwet’en title holding collective.
If built, the Coastal GasLink (CGL) could expedite the construction of subsequent proposed tar sands bitumen and fracked gas pipelines, and create an incentive for gas companies to tap into shale deposits along the pipeline right of way. This project aims to blaze a trail, in what has been envisioned as an energy corridor through some of the only pristine areas left in this entire region. If CGL were to be built and become operational, it would irreversibly transform the ecology and character of Northern B.C.
The Unist’ot’en Camp has been a beacon of resistance for nearly 10 years. It is a healing space for Indigenous people and settlers alike, and an active example of decolonization. The violence, environmental destruction, and disregard for human rights following TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) / Coastal GasLink’s interim injunction has been devastating to bear, but this fight is far from over.
Michael Toledano, Sam Vinal, and Franklin Lopez are three filmmakers from different corners of Turtle Island that met while covering the Unist’ot’en Camp. In the summer of 2019 they had an idea: collect all their individual footage of their different visits to the camp into one hard drive (about ten years’ worth), and make a feature film about this inspiring manifestation of Indigenous resistance.
While this is still the plan, they felt the Unist’ot’en could use some visibility, now that the possibility of more police attacks are imminent. So they came up with INVASION, an 18 minute video report of what’s it been like at Unist’ot’en in 2019. They are still working on the full length film, so keep an eye out for that in 2020.