UBCC350 open letter calls on campus community to support Wet’suwet’en

UBCC350 has penned an open letter calling on the UBC community to support the Wet’suwet’en First Nation one year after the nation began a blockade to protect their ancestral territory from the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

UBCC350, a student-led climate activist group, is continuing its support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs with its January 20 open letter. The group is seeking signatures and is asking UBC students, faculties and departments to stand with the Wet’suwet’en in their international call for solidarity.

“We call on UBC to stand by its rhetoric and condemn the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia for their abhorrent and illegal assault on Wet’suwet’en Nation,” reads the letter.

The RCMP has maintained a presence in the Unist’ot’en camp in Central BC, where Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are reoccupying their unceded land and aiming to block pipeline construction. While five elected chiefs from the nation signed a deal with Coastal GasLink for the pipeline, hereditary chiefs have opposed it. Coastal GasLink’s pipeline is to run from northeast BC through the unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.

In December, a BC Supreme Court Judge issued an injunction and granted construction crews access to the road. Tensions rose two weeks ago as Mounties restricted access with a checkpoint on a road leading to the camp.

“This is just one more instance in which a colonial government is removing Indigenous people from their land without their consent in the name of corporate profit,” said Kate Hodgson, member of UBCC350.

Upholding commitments

Premier John Horgan has refused the chiefs’ demand to meet face to face, although he suggested they meet with another representative of the province.

Earlier this month, members of UBCC350 protested outside Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby’s office, urging provincial and federal governments to withdraw the RCMP presence from the camp. Eby was unavailable for comment.

“We’ve been boosting actions by other people and organizing to try and create actions in the future,” said UBCC350 member Max Hiscox.

According to Hodgson, the provincial government’s actions against the land defenders is a “deep hypocrisy” given that the government signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into BC law in November 2019.

The open letter is UBCC350’s next step in its divestment campaign as it calls on the UBC administration to issue a statement of solidarity with Wet’suwet’en. The group hopes their actions will pressure UBC to honour the rhetoric of the climate emergency declaration made by President Ono on December 5, 2019, which includes the need to incorporate UNDRIP in further climate action.

In a written statement to The Ubyssey, Senior Director of UBC Media Relations Kurt Heinrich said the university is aware of the conflict and does not have strong viewpoints about it.

“UBC does not condone violence of any kind and we urge people to strive for a calm and orderly resolution to the conflict – one that aligns with the peaceful and mutually respectful guidelines of behaviour articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” reads the statement.

Hodgson said that UBCC350 is using its activism to hold UBC and other institutions to account for climate action promises.

“[Our organizing] is about holding our provincial and federal leaders to account, and forcing our university to use its political power to do the same,” said Hodgson.

“ … But we’re hoping to pair that with really strong boots-on-the-ground organizing.”

This article has been updated with additional information about the history of the blockade.