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Land defender Rita Wong sentenced to jail for blocking Trans Mountain work site

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Rita Wong. Image: PBI-Canada/Facebook

On August 16, land defender and water protector Rita Wong was sentenced to 28 days in jail by a British Columbia Supreme Court judge.

The RCMP arrested Wong last year for peacefully blocking the gated entrance to a work site in Burnaby, British Columbia, for the 890,000-barrel-per-day Trans Mountain pipeline.

In a statement made after her sentencing she commented, "I acted with respect for the rule of law which includes the rule of natural law and the rule of Indigenous law and the rule of international law."

She then highlighted, "Under the rule of law: I have a responsibility to my ancestors and the ancestors of this land to protect the lands and waters that give us life with each breath, each bite of food, each sip of water."

The pipeline would cross the territories of numerous Indigenous nations in this country without their free, prior and informed consent.

Notably, Indigenous land defender and water protector Kanahus Manuel has noted that 518 kilometres of the 1,150-kilometre-long pipeline would cross the unceded territory of the Secwepemc Nation without its consent.

That pipeline, approved and now owned by the Canadian government, would also produce an estimated 86 million tonnes of carbon pollution a year for 50-plus years.

Before she was arrested, Wong stated, "The expansion of this pipeline would pose an increased risk to Indigenous women through displacement and man-camps, as well as everybody on Earth, through further climate destabilization."

She encouraged "more people to make the connections between violence against the land and violence against missing and murdered Indigenous women."

For more on that connection in a Latin American context, please see PBI-Guatemala accompanies TZK'AT who seek an end to violence against the land and women.

"Man camps are temporary housing facilities constructed for predominantly male workers on resource development projects in the oil, pipeline, mining, hydroelectric, and forestry industries. Reports show a direct correlation between these encampments and violence against women," the Secwepemcu'ecw Assembly has explained.

Following her sentencing, Wong stated, "The morning of my arrest we hung red dresses to honour the murdered and missing Indigenous women, the sisters who are made more vulnerable and victimized by the man camps that accompany pipeline expansion and massive resource extraction."

You can send her a note at: Rita Wong, Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, PO Box 1000, Maple Ridge, British Columbia V2X 7G4, Canada. Please keep in mind that all mail is opened, so you are advised not to add items or stickers.

Brent Patterson is the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. This article originally appeared on the PBI-Canada website. PBI-Canada is part of Peace Brigades International, a global organization that accompanies human rights defenders around the world. PBI-Guatemala regularly visits Mayan Q'eqchi' land and water defender Bernardo Caal Xol who is serving 7 years in prison for his opposition to the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Cahabón River.

Image: PBI-Canada/Facebook

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