Trans Mountain
Secwepemc Hereditary Chief Sawses and Secwepemc and Syilx upcoming Matriarch Palwíčyaʔ attended court on Mar. 1, 2021 to share their message: ‘No TMX.’ Photo by Kelsie Kilawna

Canada in ‘conflict of interest’ on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, say Secwépemc land defenders

Secwépemc land defenders say Canada ‘has no jurisdiction and no authority over our people on our land,’ and request independent third-party adjudication for charges laid.

Secwépemc and allied land defenders who were arrested while protecting unceded territory against Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion made their second appearance in court on March 1.

Supporters gathered outside Kamloops Law Courts for the eight individuals who are accused of being in civil contempt of a court-ordered injunction issued by Trans Mountain on June 1, 2018.

The allegations stem from two separate incidents in Oct. 2020, where the land defenders gathered at a Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) work site in Tk’emlúps (Kamloops).

The eight people arrested on both Oct. 15 and 17 are self-representing in court.

In a Facebook Live video shot after the court appearance, Matriarch Thomas says that the group believes Canada is in a conflict of interest in this case, because it stands to benefit from the pipeline being built.

The federal government bought the pipeline from Texas-based oil giant Kinder Morgan for $4.5-billion in 2018.

“They are in a conflict of interest. So being in that conflict of interest, they are not in a proper position to judge over us,” Thomas says. 

“We also let them know that they have no jurisdiction and no authority over our people on our land.”

The group facing charges has requested an independent third-party adjudication.

“The real title holders are the people themselves — the traditional authority. And we let them know that we wanted a third-party adjudication, because they are no in a position to act in our best interest,” she says.

“We are the protectors of the land and we’re not going anywhere. Our people are here to stay.”

Matriarch Dick echoed this, saying the project has gone ahead without the consent of the Indigenous Nations who have never consented.

“(This) will impact all of the Indigenous Peoples, all of the Peoples downstream from me,” Dick says. 

“And you come here and make up your own laws and your own protection, and make up what’s morally right and what’s morally wrong — I just couldn’t stand there anymore and allow that.”

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After her appearance in court, Dick, alongside other filmmakers, began their first day of shooting for an upcoming documentary that will amplify the voices of the communities that are being impacted by the pipeline.

The film doesn’t have a release date just yet, but the crew will be travelling the corridor of the TMX pipeline to hear from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people affected.

Meanwhile, their next court date is set for March 15.