On February 8, 2019, OPSEU joined the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia in opposing the Coastal Gaslink pipeline and called on the British Columbia government to respect Indigenous title and revoke permits for the pipeline.
Today, one year later, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) responds with violence and arrests against the Mohawk people and their allies who remain in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.
The OPP arrested land defenders and their allies on the morning of February 24, 2020 as they were waiting on an expected announcement that the RCMP would be leaving unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, one of the conditions for ending the blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas called on the parties to negotiate to resolve the dispute.
“I encourage meaningful nation to nation dialogue and a mediated settlement at the table. Let’s take the time necessary to demonstrate mutual respect and an understanding of the underlying issues. Respect, not force is the key to resolution.”
OPSEU Indigenous Circle member Crystal Sinclair was at the Unis’to’ten camp in January 2019 and witnessed the RCMP crackdown on those defending unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. She remains an active supporter of the land defenders and water protectors opposed to the pipeline.
Sinclair considers it “a national disgrace for the OPP to use force against Indigenous people peacefully exercising their sovereignty over their lands.
“The RCMP must leave Wet’suwet’en/Unistoten land now and the OPP must end its raid on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory as a step toward a peaceful resolution of this conflict.”
President Thomas says he and the OPSEU Executive Board are champions of Indigenous rights and sovereignty, saying the union stand with Indigenous members of OPSEU to defend water and land for everyone.
“OPSEU is absolutely committed to walking with Indigenous communities over the long haul – and we invite all levels of government to do the same,” he said.
“We need to have a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples to bring about real action on climate change. Overrunning sovereign Indigenous lands to lay down a massive pipeline certainly won’t achieve that.”