Secrecy by public officials is strongly opposed by most media — except when it is not. Outrage about secret police in other countries is always condemned, but evidently not when it happens in Canada.
In Hamilton, council secrecy over the volume of sewage spilled into Chedoke Creek generated a firestorm of media attention and editorial criticism. More recently, the secrecy surrounding the provincial task force on the LRT or alternative allocation of $1 billion is also being challenged. But much more serious secrecy is being tolerated with barely a whimper.
The RCMP has excluded media and others for several days from a vast area of northern British Columbia to allow the federal police force to carry out raids and arrests of the Wet’suwet’en Indigenous people and their allies on unceded lands so a private company can build a fracked gas pipeline across their territories. This intentional exclusion of independent observers duplicates the secrecy the RCMP imposed during its January 2019 raids on the same lands and peoples.
When they blocked roads to the Wet’suwet’en territories, at the same time access to the internet mysteriously was disrupted. There was virtually no expression of outrage or even of significant concern that the media had been prevented from observing and documenting what turned out to be a very brutal police assault.
Ten months later (in December) a British newspaper, the Guardian, obtained and released RCMP documents showing they had authorized the use of “lethal force” and the arrest of Indigenous children — a chilling reminder of the residential schools that Indigenous children were forced to attend in Canada for over 100 years. Hundreds of kids died in these institutions, and large numbers were sexually and/or physically brutalized. After more than 100 years the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission described this as cultural genocide by the Canadian government.
This year, an exclusion zone around Wet’suwet’en unceded lands was initiated by the RCMP in the middle of January, although in a media statement the force stated it was an “access control” operation. At the time, the National Observer editorialized that “the RCMP should not be allowed to stop journalists from witnessing their actions.”
They quoted the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists who tweeted: “We do not want to see a repeat of last year’s behaviour, when the RCMP used an exclusion zone to block journalists’ access, making it impossible to provide details on a police operation.” But few media took a stand and the “repeat” has occurred.
Starting at around 4 am on Thursday February 6, RCMP began a massive military invasion of the Wet’suwet’en lands. One of the first results was smashing the windows of a radio vehicle and police removing other media. The RCMP operation continued for several days and numerous people were arrested and property damaged.
Like the proposed pipeline across rural Hamilton, the BC one would carry fracked gas. The 48–inch pipe proposed by Enbridge in Hamilton is just over 10 kilometres and would damage some ecological sensitive lands. The pipe crossing Wet’suwet’en lands in BC is 670 kilometres and much of it would be built across wilderness untouched by industrial activity.
There have been dozens of solidarity actions across Canada including the full shutdown of rail lines between Toronto and Montreal. There was also a three–hour blockade of CN’s mainline in Hamilton on February 2 and at least three downtown rallies that blocked streets. One unreported action on January 10 blocked all lanes of King and Bay streets and briefly saw about 80 people march through the Jackson Square branch of the Royal Bank — one of the major funders of both BC and Hamilton pipelines. V