More land defenders allege mistreatment while in RCMP custody after being arrested in Wet’suwet’en Territory, as police continue to enforce a court order issued to Coastal GasLink.
As reported by National Observer of Canada, several land defenders arrested on November 18 said they were forced to strip naked in a single layer, transported in enclosures roughly the size of a “kennel,” forced to go to court in their underwear, and handcuffed in various points during testing. Other land defenders arrested on November 19, along with documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano, also describe similar mistreatment, in addition to being subjected to sweltering heat, bloodstained holding cells and denied access to lawyers and water for long periods of time. . None of those arrested on November 19 who National Observer of Canada He spoke with those who put handcuffs on their ankles, as described by land defenders arrested the day before.
On November 19, the RCMP raided a “Tiny House” to arrest Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo ‘, Gitxsan land defender Shay Lynn Sampson, and journalists Michael Toledano and Amber Bracken. That same day, RCMP also raided a nearby cabin and made more arrests, including Corey Jayohcee Jocko and Jocey Alec, the daughter of Hereditary Chief Woos of Wet’suwet’en.
Jocko and Sampson described being transported by RCMP in small enclosures in the back of police vehicles. Sampson described them as not big enough to stretch their legs.
“They’re like little cages for small dogs,” Jocko said. “I’m 5-9, 5-10 and my knees are almost chest level. You have to sit almost on your side. So any big person or a person with a little weight on them would be squeezed. “
The RCMP rejects this characterization, calling it “very frustrating and concerning that serious allegations are being made” and “the allegations of how people were treated in a similar way to canines is ridiculous.”
“Prisoner vans have individual compartments but they are not ‘boxes’ and they have plenty of room for people,” said RCMP spokesman Cpl. Madonna Saunderson.
After being arrested, Jocko, Sampson and Toledano described being held in a police vehicle with the heat on for at least two hours while wearing warm winter clothing.
“We were wearing all of our gear, and they were on full heat, so some of us were hyperventilating and almost passed out from it,” Jocko said.
“You could hear them all laugh and just talk, and time passed like this and a lot of us had to rip the clothes we had to breathe,” he said.
“I demanded to speak to my attorney and they denied it,” says an arrested land defender from her time in RCMP custody. #cdnpoli #bcpoli #CoastalGasLink
Sampson echoed the severity of the heat, saying they were not told how long they would be waiting and that they did not want to be left out in the cold, which is why people were wearing their full winter clothes.
The RCMP “left us in a vehicle for two hours in the low heat … and didn’t come to see us at all. And after that, he didn’t give us water for at least another five hours, ”he said.
“In fact, the paramedic saw me once I got to the detention cell where we stayed for the night because I was very nauseous,” he added.
All three described being forced to strip into a base layer after arriving at an RCMP detachment in Houston, BC. They said no one got their clothes back until they were released, which means they had to go to court wearing what they had. For some it was wool pants and a T-shirt, for others it was thermal underwear.
“According to standard protocol, all those arrested were given the option of which single layer they wanted to wear while in custody. People chose to wear their underwear or long johns, rather than their outerwear, ”said the RCMP.
Sampson said that one of the worst parts of being arrested was having her traditional outfits removed.
“The officers who took it off, one of them dropped my cedar headband that I was wearing to protect myself on the ground, and I told one of the officers I was wearing it for protection and they said, ‘No, I wasn’t.’ . ” she said.
“I said, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about,’ and I demanded to speak to my lawyer, and they denied it.
“I demanded to speak to an indigenous liaison and they told me that they did not have one in that office, so it is simply a lot of insensitivity to the needs of the indigenous people who were there,” he said.
Toledano said he was denied the opportunity to call an attorney of his own choosing. The first denial occurred when a key to the handcuffs on which it was attached broke in the lock. He said that after several attempts to remove the handcuffs, the police finally used bolt cutters on the chain to separate the handcuffs and he wanted to use a saw to remove it from the rest.
Toledano says he wanted to call his lawyer to find out what his rights were in that situation, given that he could have been injured, but was denied that opportunity.
“There was a sharp piece of metal sticking out of one of (the handcuffs), and at the time, they told me it was a danger to me and others, so they had to remove the handcuffs before I could call my lawyer. , ” he said.
“They treated me like I was a specific threat and danger to their safety with handcuffs on, that I could use them as a weapon.”
Once in a holding cell, Toledano says he again asked to speak to his lawyer.
“When I got to jail, the police told me that the lawyer was not accepting any more clients and refused to allow me to call them and confirm it myself, so I had to find a different lawyer,” he said.
Over time, Toledano connected with a new attorney.
Both Toledano and Jocko described the holding cells as disgusting.
“Every cell they put us in had blood on the walls, blood on the bottom of the doors, spit and disgusting things in the water wells where they expected you to drink the water, so many of us did not drink water for days. ”Said Jocko.
Toledano described it similarly, saying that several of the cells “had blood on the walls or feces” and that the holding cells at Prince George’s courthouse in particular “had various swastikas carved into the walls.”
“They were concrete cells with the lights on 24 hours a day, no pillows, and a guard watched him every 10 minutes, but … penalized him if he asked questions like ‘I would like to speak to my lawyer.’ Then they would close the little window that led to the hallway and take away what little view you had of the outside world, “he said.
Toledano also said that basic hygiene items such as soap or toothbrushes were denied, and that “stale” egg discs were provided as food.
“This kind of willful undernourishment and this willful denial of basic services, combined with the fact that we didn’t know what time of day it was and … we were denied the opportunity to have follow-up phone calls with our attorneys, all in in a way it amounted to punitive treatment and a loss of sense of space and time, ”he said.
John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada National Observer