Graphic: Tannis Nielsen

The OCAD University Faculty Association stands in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en HEREDITARY CHIEFS and activists at the Unist’ot’en Camp defending their territory and the environment.

We are artists, designers and educators working in a university that has committed to take action towards decolonization.  The first principle in our Academic Plan: “OCAD U understands that transformative education after the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada requires that we critically transform the settler social relations that underpin knowledge production and what constitutes knowledge within the university context and beyond.”

We denounce the militarized actions by the RCMP to use violence and forcibly remove peaceful land defenders from Wet’suwet’en territory.   This is unceded land and has been recognized as such by a 1997 Supreme Court decision that affirmed Wet’suwet’en rights to their land. International law and the Royal Proclamation of 1763, affirm the fact that Canada has no legal jurisdiction on un-ceded territories.  The HEREDITARY CLAN CHIEFS,  leaders under the traditional form of governance,  are in opposition to the construction of the Coastal Gas Pipeline, that would carry fracked gas through unceded Wet’suwet’en land. 

In the past few days Canadians have witnessed the RCMP use tactics not dissimilar to those used in a police state. An extra-judicial ‘exclusion zone’ was declared with within which media were denied press freedoms to document police actions.  The images that have come through the frontlines are disturbing.  Unarmed matriarchs violently arrested, some in the midst of carrying out ceremony.  RCMP using attack dogs and storm trooper artillery to wrestle Indigenous land defenders to the ground.  This is not what reconciliation looks like.

We call upon the federal and provincial government and the RCMP to honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  UNDRIP is an international document that gives Indigenous people the right to control resource projects on their land.  Free and prior consent is needed.  Under Wet’suwet’en law all five clans have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals. The forcible removal and construction of the Coastal Gas Pipeline is a violation of international, Canadian and Wet’suwet’en law.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was recently elected on a promise to build new relations with Indigenous First Nations. Reconciliation does not take place under the barrel of a gun. B.C Premier John Horgan has said he believes ‘positive reconciliation initiative’ is possible – the actions of the government and RCMP counter this sentiment. 

We thank the Wet’suwet’en people who are standing up for all of us and have been honouring the land for millennia. “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, Unist’ot’en Hereditary Spokesperson

We unequivocally support the demands of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and their public calls:

  • That the province ceases construction of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline project and suspend permits.
  • That the UNDRIP and our right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected by the state and RCMP.
  • That the RCMP and associated security and policing services be withdrawn from Wet’suwet’en lands, in agreement with the most recent letter provided by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s (CERD) request.
  • That the provincial and federal government, RCMP and private industry employed by CGL respect our laws and our governance system, and refrain from using any force to access our lands or remove our people.

“Reconciliation does not take place under the barrel of a gun.” – Chief Na’moks of the Tsayu (Beavor Clan) of the Wet’suwet’en.

In solidarity,

Ontario College of Art & Design Faculty Association

OCAD University