An urgent appeal from Kai Nagata

There’s no time to waste. We need national media attention on the Unist’ot’en Camp in Northern B.C. – before dozens, even hundreds of officers in tactical gear move in.

The Unist’ot’en are a clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, whose territory stands in the path of several proposed pipelines, including Enbridge Northern Gateway.

The camp sits on the banks of Wedzin Kwah, the Morice River, at the end of a long dirt road.

Residents in the Northern town of Houston, 65km northeast, tell me RCMP vehicles and personnel have been massing there all week.

People in Smithers, 45 minutes down Highway 16, say black SUVs showed up at the local police department towing long trailers, and out-of-town police are there stocking up on groceries.

Meanwhile, the moderator of the Unist’ot’en Camp Facebook page reports that a person was spotted across the river wearing a ghillie suit – 3D camouflage used by snipers. If true, it’s reminiscent of the paramilitary show of force by RCMP in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick in 2013.

In the midst of this apparent buildup, yesterday a TransCanada pipelines subsidiary trying to access the territory filed a complaint with the RCMP. The Unist’ot’en Camp has been at its present location for five years. Why escalate things now?

I hope I’m wrong, but my gut says Ottawa is preparing to launch a large-scale raid of a First Nations pipeline camp – in the middle of an election campaign.

Whatever happens next will take place on the far side of a narrow bridge, behind a police barricade, an hour and a half from cell service. The federal government will have complete control of the narrative.

You know what the story will be: “domestic extremists,” “violent radicals,” “holding the economy hostage”. Opposition politicians who criticize the police action will be attacked for going soft on lawbreakers.

From an election standpoint, a manufactured “security incident” like this presents a perfect opportunity to polarize and frighten voters in B.C. and across the country.

But you can stop it from happening.

We need eyes and ears at the end of that dirt road – and the RCMP needs to know the whole province is watching.

Please take a minute to send a polite note to your preferred TV news station:

I used to work as a TV news reporter and I can assure you – real people do read the news tips, and the stations take action based on what viewers want to see. It’s expensive to send news crews to remote locations, but this is a big story and it needs to be covered.

If we can get eyes and ears on the ground in Houston and along the Morice River, I’m hopeful our police officers will take off the camo, put on their uniforms, and facilitate a peaceful resolution to this dispute.

Thank you for your help,

Kai Nagata

P.S. This is a legal disagreement between Indigenous landowners and a private pipeline company. The Unist’ot’en deserve a chance to defend their title and rights in court. Our friends at the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the BC Civil Liberties Association are speaking out, backed by allied groups all across Canada. Please spread the word on Facebook and Twitter: there’s no need for police to raid a First Nations pipeline camp in the middle of a federal election.

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