This letter is a collective response to the massive number of incidents of violence, assault, unlawful conduct, and racism of the C-IRG police unit in Canada. It is a call for the immediate abolition of this force. It is a call that highlights the establishment of this unit specifically to pacify Indigenous assertions of jurisdiction against industrial resource operations in the province of BC. This force has been instrumental in the ongoing criminalization of Indigenous rights. We call on the Province of BC, Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General, the federal Ministry of Public Safety and PMO, and RCMP ‘E’ Division to immediately disband the C-IRG.
The Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) was formed by the RCMP in 2017 in response to anticipated Indigenous resistance to industrial resource operations in the province of British Columbia (BC), specifically the Coastal Gaslink and Trans Mountain pipelines. C-IRG’s operations have since expanded past the energy industry to forestry and hydro operations.
Over the years, activists have filed hundreds of individual complaints and several collective complaints to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC). In addition, journalists at Fairy Creek and on Wet’suwet’en territories have brought lawsuits against the C-IRG, land defenders at Gidimt’en have brought civil claims and sought a stay of proceedings for Charter violations, activists at Fairy Creek challenged an injunction on the grounds that C-IRG activity brings the administration of justice into disrepute and launched a civil class-action alleging systemic Charter violations.
Secwepemc, Wet’suwet’en and Treaty 8 land defenders also filed Urgent Action Early Warning requests from the United Nations in response to C-IRG incursions on their land for protecting contested extraction. Gitxsan hereditary leaders have spoken out about the unnecessary militarization and criminalization displayed by C-IRG. Some of the Simgiigyet (hereditary chiefs) have called for C-IRG to be prohibited from their lands for the safety of all.
Given the serious nature of allegations against C-IRG, we call on Canada, BC, and the RCMP E-Division command to suspend all C-IRG duties and deployment. This suspension and disbandment would align BC with its stated commitments to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), and the Declaration Act Action Plan, which aims to protect Indigenous self-determination and inherent title and rights. We also call on the federal government to intervene, given its own commitments to UNDRIP and pending legislation, as well as to its lawful obligations to protect Section 35(1) Aboriginal constitutional rights.
C-IRG operates through a divisional command structure. The divisional command structure is usually touted as a temporary, emergency measure to handle particular incidents, such as the Vancouver Olympics or a hostage situation. The logic of the Gold-Silver-Bronze (GSB) system is that it prescribes a chain of command structure to coordinate policing as an integrated response. As far as the public record shows, using the divisional command structure as a permanent policing structure is unprecedented in Canada. Potential disruption to critical infrastructure construction – that can take place over many years, even decades – are being treated as emergency “critical incidents.” This emergency command structure has become a permanent structure for policing Indigenous peoples (and supporters) in BC.
C-IRG operation and expansion thus also goes against the Police Act Reform committee hearings, where the provincial legislative report stated, that “Recognizing the need for Indigenous self-determination the Committee recommends Indigenous communities have direct input into the structure and governance of police services.”
Internal RCMP reviews of the C-IRG cannot address these fundamental concerns. On March 8, the CRCC – the oversight body of the RCMP – announced that it is launching a Systemic Review investigating the Community-Industry Response Group (CIRG), pursuant to s. 45.34(1) of the RCMP Act. See our concerns with this review here. We submit, however, that there is no set of reforms that would make it acceptable for Canada to have a paramilitary force designed specifically to manage the assertion of inherent and constitutionally-protected Indigenous rights in the face of unwanted development. The C-IRG should not exist, and it needs to be disbanded entirely.
We demand that deployment of C-IRG in BC be immediately suspended pending full and fair resolution (review, determination and remediation) of each and all of the hundreds of complaints to CRCC alleging C-IRG use of force to unlawfully arrest, detain and assault people. These people were exercising protected rights to protest non-consensual corporate extraction and pipeline construction activities on the basis that these corporate activities cause irremediable damage to Indigenous, environmental, and community rights. The extent of the human rights abuses and violations of Indigenous inherent rights committed by the C-IRG has not yet fully come to light, therefore any investigation must look thoroughly at the C-IRG’s actions beyond known complaints.
Instead, the province and RCMP are moving in the opposite direction of justice by continuing to support and expand the C-IRG. The Tyee recently revealed that the unit received an additional $36 million in funding. Why is the police force receiving more funds, when the United Nations has stated in a third rebuke that the governments of Canada and BC “have escalated their use of force, surveillance, and criminalization of land defenders to intimidate, remove and forcibly evict Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en Nations from their traditional lands”? A recent report by the UN Special Rapporteurs also condemned the criminalization of Indigenous land defenders by the C-IRG.
Failure by the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to call for a halt to C-IRG deployment in BC pending determination of the complaints is a tacit admission that the CRCC process is capable of recording complaints but not of remedying their damage.
SIGNATORIES AND ENDORSEMENTS
Chief Na’Moks, Tsayu Clan, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief
Sleydo, Spokesperson for Gidimt’en
Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition
Tiny House Warriors, Secwepemc
8 co-accused Secwepemc Land Defenders against Trans Mountain
Last Stand West Kootenay
Fridays for the Future West Kootenays
Rainbow Flying Squad, Fairy Creek
Elders for Ancient Trees, Fairy Creek
Indigenous Climate Action
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA)
Peace Brigades International – Canada
David Suzuki Foundation
Assembly of Seven Generations
No More Silence
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
Doctors for Defunding the Police
Red River Echoes
West Coast Environmental Law
Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) – Toronto
Families of Sisters In Spirit
Climate Action Network Canada
Kairos Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Halifax
Criminalization and Punishment Education Project
Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction
Bar None, Winnipeg
Law Union of British Columbia
No Pride in Policing Coalition
BC Climate Emergency Campaign
Climate Emergency Unit
My Sea to Sky
Movement Defence Committee Toronto
World BEYOND War
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network
Idle No More
Centre for Access to Information & Justice
Punch Up Collective
Council Of Canadians
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
Idle No More Ontario
Rising Tide North America
Keepers of the Water
Canadian Foreign Policy Institute
Community Peacemaker Teams
New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance
Climate Justice Hub
Council of Canadians, London chapter
Council of Canadians, Nelson-West Kootenays chapter
Council of Canadians, Kent County chapter