Unist'ot'en Solidarity Statement
February 13, 2020
YouthCO HIV & Hep C Society expresses our solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, and their jurisdiction and governance in Unist’ot’en, Gidimt’en, and across their unceded territory. As an organization of both settler and Indigenous youth, YouthCO calls on the governments of BC and Canada, the RCMP, and Coastal GasLink to stop current actions against Wet’suwet’en land, Wet’suwet’en people, and Wet’suwet’en ways of being. We ask that the federal and provincial government, the RCMP, and Coastal GasLink respect the free prior and informed consent protocol of Wet’suwet’en, and the traditional ways the Wet’suwet’en relate to the land at Unist’ot’en.
We support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ rights as the First People of the land that they have lived with and stewarded since time immemorial. We believe these rights are affirmed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, adopted by the government of British Columbia this past fall. We believe the government of Canada’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation and the Calls to Action, as well as the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, must be put into action with immediate withdrawal of force in Wet’suwet’en territory. We echo the call from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to stop work on Coastal GasLink until such a time as there is free, prior, and informed consent from the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.
In witnessing the RCMP presence on Wet’suwet’en territory, we are deeply concerned about the ways colonization is unfolding in today's decisions, actions, and inactions. We see Coastal GasLink, supported by the governments of British Columbia and Canada, ignoring and actively undermining the jurisdiction and self-determination of the Wet’suwet’en. The actions of Coastal GasLink and the governments of BC and Canada show disregard for the governance structure that has existed in this community and on this land since time immemorial. We support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs requests in their entirety, and ask that the governments of British Columbia and Canada, and Coastal GasLink act on these requests immediately.
Indigenous youth on our team have spent time with youth in and from Wet’suwet’en territory, considering the connections between colonization and our health, especially as it relates to sexuality and substance use. From these experiences, and the experiences of Indigenous youth we work with across what we now call British Columbia, we want to amplify what we hear from Indigenous youth over and over again: colonization, including forcibly removing Indigenous people from their land, is the main driver of health and social inequities that we work to address. At YouthCO, we approach our work informed by anti-oppression, and we strive towards realizing anti-oppression in our relationships with Indigenous people, in our work to reduce the impact of HIV and Hep C, and in our support for youth leaders.
In 2018, youth from Wet'suwet'en Nation created this video, Keeping Our Language Alive, which emphasizes the need for language programs and connection to culture. Unist'ot'en is one of the places where Wet'suwet'en youth are able to learn language, oral history, and art. We ask that the federal and provincial governments immediately act to ensure Unist'ot'en remains and Wet'suwet'en self-determination in health, healing, and education is respected.
YouthCO supports Wet’suwet’en people, and the Indigenous youth and leaders who are standing with Wet’suwet’en, and across the globe at demonstrations, on the land in Unist’ot’en, and online. We will continue to work to support Indigenous youth leadership and self-determination of nations across what we now call British Columbia.
We are witnessing the violence taking place on Wet’suwet’en land, and thus against Wet’suwet’en people and ways of being. We ask that the governments of BC and Canada, and Coastal GasLink immediately cease the use of force to continue Coastal GasLink activities, and withdraw until such a time as they can respect Wet’suwet’en laws and governance system.
To learn more about Wet'suwet'en and Unist'ot'en: