Health Professionals' Open Letter on Wet'suwet'en

Health Professionals'

To:  Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
       Hon. John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia
       Hon. David Eby, Attorney-General of British Columbia
       Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous Relations
       Hon. Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations
                            and Reconciliation
       Office of the Wet'suwet'en
       Unist'ot'en Camp
       Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
       S/Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, RCMP E Division

Health Professionals’ Open Letter On Wet’suwet’en
We are alarmed and concerned by events unfolding in northern British Columbia.  Once again we have watched as RCMP officers armed with automatic weapons and equipped with dogs, drones, helicopters, and sound cannon and with the overwatch of RCMP snipers dismantled three peaceful Wet’suwet’en checkpoints.
These blockades arose from the incursion of a fracking natural gas pipeline backed by Dutch, Chinese, Korean, Malaysian and Japanese multinationals into traditional Wet’suwet’en territories, without permission from the Wet’suwet’en leadership and over their strenuous objection.
The health risks from fracking are well known, including release of carcinogenic toxins such as benzene.  Pregnant women in northeastern BC have serum benzene levels three times the normal level (1) and studies have shown this has an association with increased childhood leukemia rates (2).  U.S. studies have shown increases in congenital heart disease, chronic pulmonary disorders and small birthweight babies in populations living in proximity to fracking operations.  And as we all know, every pipeline leaks.
In addition, the CGL pipeline would feed the massive LNG project in Kitimat.  The whole project is geared to shipping huge volumes of LNG to Asian markets and increasing fossil fuel emissions worldwide at a time when the looming devastation of climate change is literally setting countries on fire.  Australia is burning,   Antarctic temperatures just passed 20 degrees Celsius.  The health risks presented by climate change should terrify everyone.
The American Journal of Public Health has pointed out that indigenous groups are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change – “warming temperatures have the potential to affect infectious diseases associated with the preparation of traditional foods (e.g. gastroenteritis, food-borne botulism), zoonotic diseases (e.g giardiasis) and traditional plants or remedies.”  In addition, “high-intensity rainfall events could be particularly problematic, with waterborne disease outbreaks (e.g. typhoid, bacillary dysentery, Escherichia coli and cryptosporidiosis)”, not to mention the direct and indirect effects of wildfire outbreaks we have already seen in BC. (3)
Article 26.2, of the UN Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous People states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of tra­ditional ownership or other traditional occu­pation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.”  This right has been enshrined in law by B.C.‘s Bill 41, as has the right of indigenous peoples not to be removed from their lands.  But if the words of the provincial government uphold these rights, their actions do the complete opposite.
Despite the fact that the Wet’suwet’en have an established legal and moral right to govern their own territories, this inconvenient fact is being ignored by the provincial government the RCMP and even the courts.  Once again unceded indigenous lands are being annexed by force and at the point of a gun.  And this in turn has led to the polarization and division that has erupted across Canada.
For these reasons, we, the undersigned health care professionals, join our voices with Amnesty International to call for a halt to further work on the CGL pipeline until the free prior informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en people has been obtained and support the call of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for the RCMP to withdraw.
We also call on Premier John Horgan to place a moratorium on CGL construction permits and to return to the table with the Wet’suwet’en people. 

Mary-Wynne Ashford, MD PhD
Juan Ayala retired patient escort
Sandy Bauer retired RN
Jessie Beauchamp RN BSN
Farideh Bozorg RN
Bridie Cain LPN
Krista Barclay RN MSN CNE
Ladan Bayani-Mehrabadi RN BsCN
Karin Bergen RMT
Katherine Bertram, MD, FCFP
Courtney Blake, HCA BScN Student
David Bowering MD, MHSc
   (retired Chief Medical Health Officer, Northern Health)
Eleanor Cohen RN PhD
Lori Dupuis RN BSN
Freda Edgars RN
Steve Gray MD, CCFP
Mark Galloway RN
Louise Gilfoy RN
Laurie Halfpenny RN
Harriet D. Hall, RMT
April Hautalouma RN
Naseem Janmohamed, MD CCFP
Shawnna Karras RMT
Sabrina Lee Levac, RN
Alex Marshall BSc, BSN, RN
Sandra Marshall RN
Michelle Martinson Lowe RN BSN EMA GNC(C)
Gabor Maté  MD CM
Jacqueline Miller RN
Joe Minifie RN
RD Nicoll MD
Will Offley RN
Penny Oyama retired RN
Sophie Pelletier RN
Carol Peters LPN
Sara Phillips BscPN
Jane Prince RN BScN
Lydia Pugh RN
Janet Ray BSc OT MD
Catherine Ryan RMT
Michael Scott Clinical Nurse Educator RN
Sharon Sharp RN
Lyla Smith retired RN
Matei Stoian MD
Christy Sutherland MD CCFP (AM) dABAM
Sharon Tamaro, MSc
Stephanie von Dehn MD CCFP
Josette Wier MD
Jennifer Whyte, MD, CCFP
Fariba Wilson RN
Ty Wright RN
1) has been linked to increased rates of pediatric leukemia
3)    James Ford, Indigenous Health and Climate Change, Am J Public Health, July 2012