UofT Department of Geography & Planning Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Letter

February 21, 2020 by Department of Geography & Planning

The undersigned faculty, staff and students of the tri-campus Department of Geography & Planning at the University of Toronto stand in solidarity with members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation as they peacefully defend their unceded territories, in the face of militarized police action, raids and arrests by armed RCMP officers. We express our support as geographers and planners, who understand our roles as educators, researchers and organizers to have specific responsibilities to Indigenous peoples’ efforts to protect their lands, waters and peoples.

Under Wet’suwet’en law, authority over the nation’s 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory lies with hereditary chiefs from five clans in a system of governance that long predates colonization. All five hereditary chiefs reject the construction of the pipeline on their territory. We stand in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs who are protecting their traditional territories from oil and gas development. In the words of Gidimt’en spokesperson Molly Wickham (Sleydo): “We have a right and a responsibility to be protecting our territory, to be protecting our water, to be protecting our future generations.”  

The inherent legal right of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs has been affirmed in the Canadian courts. The Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the Delgamuukw case, in which the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en were among the plaintiffs (along with the Gitxsan), defined the grounds for Aboriginal title in Canada. The ruling affirmed Wet’suwet’en land rights; recognized that Wet’suwet’en land is unceded and that the Hereditary Chiefs are the title holders to Wet’suwet’en traditional territories; and identified the need to reconcile colonial and Indigenous legal orders. 

We are concerned with the use of militarized police force and the arrests of Wet’suwet’en land protectors, including the recent arrests of Unist’ot’en matriarchs as they held a ceremony honouring their missing and murdered Indigenous sisters. 

We urge the Canadian and BC governments to uphold the United Nations’ Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which includes provisions recognizing the right to self-determination, the need to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous nations when development is proposed in their territories, and expressly condemns the forced removal of peoples from their lands and territories. British Columbia has passed legislation bringing the UNDRIP into law. We assert the need for Canada to respect its international commitments to Indigenous rights as endorsed by federal and provincial governments.

We urge the federal and provincial governments to adhere to the demands of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, as stated here: https://unistoten.camp/wetsuweten-hereditary-chiefs-no-access-without-consent/ 

  • That the province cease construction of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline project and suspend permits.
  • That the UNDRIP and our right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected by the state and RCMP.
  • That the RCMP and associated security and policing services be withdrawn from Wet’suwet’en lands, in agreement with the most recent letter provided by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimiation’s (CERD) request.
  • That the provincial and federal government, RCMP and private industry employed by CGL respect our laws and our governance system, and refrain from using any force to access our lands or remove our people. 

Signed by:

Emily Gilbert, faculty member and Director of the Canadian Studies Program

Michelle Daigle, Mushkegowuk (Cree), faculty member

Deborah Cowen, faculty member

Scott Prudham, faculty member

Heather Dorries, faculty member

Nicole Latulippe, faculty member

Richard DiFrancesco, faculty member

Mariba Douglas, student

Danny Harvey, faculty member

Mike Ekers, faculty member

Sarah Robertshaw, student 

Kanishka Goonewardena, faculty member 

Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie, student

Shaheer Tarar, student

Valentina Castellini, student

Christopher Alton, student

Matthew Lie-Paehlke, student 

Dena Coffman, student

Loren March, student

Ken MacDonald, faculty member 

Rachel Goffe, faculty member

Laysa Abchiche Lima, student

Hassan Nima, Whitefish River First Nation (Ojibwe), student

Matthew Farish, faculty member

Catherine Jimenea, student

Mark Hunter, faculty member

Connie Yang, student

Lazar Konforti, student

Jae Page, student

Nickie Van Lier, student 

Ron Buliung, Graduate Chair, Geography & Planning

Garrett Morgan, student

Bjarke Skærlund Risager, postdoctoral fellow

Monika Havelka, faculty member, Director, Programs in Environment (UTM)

Benjamin Patrick Butler, student

Natalie Oswin, faculty member

Elsie Lewison, postdoctoral fellow

Danielle Lemire, Student

Natalia Zdaniuk, staff 

Sinead Petrasek, student

Jeff Allen, student

Neve Adams, student

Hülya Arik, faculty member

Liam Fox, student

Kim Slater, student

Andrew Dick, student

Robert Kopack, student

Chiyi Tam, student

Thomas Saleh, student

Paul Ceruti, staff

Olivia Bernard (student)

Anne James, student

Khalood Kibria, student

Emily Hawes, student

Jon Paul Mathias, student

Neil Nunn, student

Zachary Anderson, student

Jason Spicer, faculty member

Nathaniel Baker, student

Mary-Kay Bachour, student 

Charlie Caldwell, student

Minha Lee, student

Leah Ritcey-Thorpe, student

Emily Leung, student

Nushrat Jahan, student

Gabrielle Doiron, student

Natasha Goel, student

Melanie Sommerville, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Nemoy Lewis, Post-Doctoral Fellow

Ahmed Allahwala, faculty member

Mischa Young, student

Hannah dos Santos, student

Neera Singh, faculty member 

David Roberts, faculty member

Yvonne Kenny, staff

Janina Kowalski, student

Hazelmae Valenzuela, student 

Sarah Wakefield, faculty member

Hernan L. Bianchi Benguria, student

Alex Walton, student

Nikki Mary Pagaling, student

Isabel Napier, student

Erica Liu, student

Melinda Yogendran, student 

Aisha Assan-Lebbe, student

Zahra Mohamed, student

Ajeev Bhatia, student

Nathan Wener, student 

Kristen Regier, student

Steve Pomedli, student

Lindsay Stephens, faculty member

Sharlene Mollett, faculty

Amanda Loder, student

Marney Isaac, faculty member

Sue Ruddick, faculty member

Maria Roxana Escobar, student 

Katharine Rankin, faculty

Kuni Kamizaki, student

Noa Bonen, student

Jacqueline Dumornay, student

Rachel Silvey, faculty

Travis Van Wyck, student

Halena Panico, student 

Gregoire Benzakin, student

Michelle Buckley, faculty 

Laura Vaz-Jones, student

Octavia Andrade-Dixon, student

Ryan Isakson, faculty member

Darian Razdar, student

Anna Ek, student

Aqsa Kousar, Student 

Killian McCormack, student

Ruth Belay, student

Cynthia Morinville, student

Sean Grisdale, student

Jeremy Withers, student

Sue Bunce, faculty

Jessica Finlayson, staff

Naomi Adiv, faculty

Christine Gibb, post-doctoral fellow


We acknowledge that there are different views that exist amongst Wet’suwet’en peoples and that some First Nation governments support the Coastal Gaslink project. As any other nation, community, or group of people, there are differences in how people envision how to actualize self-determination. We strive to understand these complexities while upholding Indigenous law and the Wet’suwet’en peoples inherent right to govern themselves without the interference from the Canadian government and corporations. Our Statement of Solidarity is not a position against Wet’suwet’en peoples who are activating their law and sovereignty through various pathways, and who continue to struggle against the impositions of settler colonialism and neoliberal capitalism.