Letter from Human Rights Symposium attendees in support of Tiny House Warriors, condemning the recent attack at Blue River Camp
On March 14-15, 2020, we attended a human rights symposium in Secwepmec territory in support of the Tiny House Warriors. A hundred people gathered from across these Indigenous lands, all the way from an Inuk community in Labrador to the island of Haida Gwaii on the Pacific, and dozens of places in between. Due to COVID-19, some of us could not attend in person, but we watched on livestream and followed the event through the images, words, and ideas that were posted on social media throughout the event.
We were all witnesses to the incredible efforts of the Tiny House Warriors to protect their lands in the face of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion , which they oppose, and learned about the international human rights law, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal rights law that protects the Secwepemc’s inherent right to occupy and govern their territory. This includes the right to refuse to consent to Canada’s pipeline.
We have come together again now. This time to express our deep concern and absolute condemnation of the violent attack on the Tiny House Warriors camp on Sunday April 19.
Three white men and one white woman rammed vehicles into the barricade that controls access to the Blue River camp. This camp was built and maintained by the Tiny House Warriors as a blockade against the man camps that will host the temporary workforce hired to construct the pipeline expansion.
Canada has a dismal human rights record of violence against Indigenous people and in particular against Indigenous women. Although I may not physically be there at the Blue River Camp, I stand with them, as so many of us do.
– Christi Belcourt, Métis artist and activist
These men tore down the red dresses hanging in memorial of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, stole Kanahus’ truck, and rammed it into a Tiny House where she had fled to escape physical attack. She was verbally abused by drunk men who made misogynistic and racist comments toward her, clearly threatening her safety. For 25 long minutes, Kanahus was under attack late at night at a camp where she and family and community members were also social distancing from Covid-19.
I find it appalling that in 2020 there is still racism, violence, verbal abuse and threats towards defenders and protectors of Indigenous human rights law, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal rights law. I demand that the RCMP find who is responsible for this hate crime and hold them accountable. I and many of my colleagues will be watching closely to see how the RCMP investigation unfolds and how the provincial and federal governments react to this act of terrorism.
– Kirby Muldoe, Gitskan and Tsmisian
At the symposium, we heard from human rights experts, policy analysts, lawyers, and land defenders who spoke to the struggle of Indigenous peoples in Canada to defend their territories and self-determination.
Everyone spoke to the importance of the stand the Tiny House Warriors were taking to carry on the fight of their ancestors to ensure the run of salmon in the rivers, the abundance of berries in the fields, and the purity of the water to drink. But most of all, what they pass down to their children by taking a stand is the knowledge that the land is their responsibility to protect, as well as the strength to fight for it.
This letter is to affirm our unanimous support for the work of the Tiny House Warriors as well as to express the deepest concern we feel for their safety. We will be watching closely to see how the RCMP investigation unfolds. Given the historical and recent record of criminalization of land defenders, and the targeting of Tiny House Warriors by law enforcement in particular, we will be vigilant in ensuring that these concerns are taken seriously and that violent attackers do not enjoy impunity for their hate crimes.
We will also be advocating for the Tiny House Warriors at the highest international human rights bodies in the world for the right to defend their sovereignty against the Trans Mountain pipeline, for which the Canadian government has not secured their consent as required under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada signed. Since BC has adopted UNDRIP in recent legislation, this international legal standard should be brought to bear provincially, too.
Given my experience as an international indigenous human rights attorney for over 30 years, I can only surmise that this obviously premeditated and vicious attack on the Tiny House Warriors has racist roots and extends to their defense of their territories against an oil pipeline destined to carry the world’s dirtiest oil. I hope and expect the Canadian authorities, both federal and provincial to fully investigate this reprehensible attack and bring all of those responsible, including if need be, corporate or governmental accomplices, to justice.
– Alberto Saldamando, Human Right Attorney, Indigenous Environmental Network
To the Tiny House Warriors, we stand behind you. Our eyes and ears will protect you.