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RCMP officers mocked people being arrested at Wet’suwet’en blockade as ‘orcs’ and ‘ogre’

January 18, 2024

Audio recordings played in court during abuse of process hearing

RCMP officers dscatter on a snowy road.
RCMP officers on the Morice River Forest Service Road on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (Submitted by Dan Loan)

Posted: Jan 17, 2024 7:52 PM EST | Last Updated: 2 hours ago

Warning: this story contains distressing details.

CBC News: RCMP officers referred to First Nations pipeline opponents as “orcs” and “ogre” during a police raid at a blockade of Coastal GasLink pipeline construction in November 2021, according to audio recordings played in court Wednesday.

The recordings were played as evidence in B.C. Supreme Court in Smithers in an abuse of process application filed by Sleydo’, also known as Molly Wickham, a Wing Chief of Cas Yikh, a house group of the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation; Shaylynn Sampson, a Gitxsan woman with Wet’suwet’en family ties and Corey Jocko, who is Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) from Akwesasne, which straddles the Quebec, Ontario and New York state borders. 

The accused were found guilty last week of criminal contempt of court for breaking a 2019 injunction that impedes anyone from blocking work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline. 

The abuse of process application alleges RCMP used excessive force when they were arrested and that they were treated unfairly while in custody. The filing asks that if the judge doesn’t stay their charges, then it would be appropriate to reduce their sentences based on their treatment by police.

During the cross-examination of RCMP Supt. James Elliott, who was part of the emergency response team as a commander, defence lawyer Frances Mahon played three audio clips. 

The audio recordings came from journalist Amber Bracken, who at the time was on assignment for news outlet The Narwhal, and documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano. Both were arrested at a tiny house on the Marten Forest Service Road on Nov. 19, 2021.

The audio was recorded on microphones that were left on during the arrests. Some of these recordings were published in The Narwhal in 2022.

In an audio recording played in court, police officers can be heard referring to blockade members with face paint on as “orcs.” Orcs are fictional monsters known for having traits such as being brutish, aggressive, and ugly. 

A woman with dark hair, wearing a black winter jacket and beaded earrings, is shown outside a small shed adorned with a red, yellow and black flag.
Wet’suwet’en leader Sleydo’, also known as Molly Wickham, is shown at the Gidimt’en Checkpoint encampment near Houston, B.C. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

Sleydo’ and Sampson both were wearing red dresses and had red handprints painted over their mouths on Nov.19, 2021, when they were arrested. Red dresses and handprints are both symbols for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. 

“It is especially offensive when that red handprint refers to the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls movement, to compare that to monsters from a fantasy series,” said Mahon. 

Elliott said this was unacceptable and apologized for the officers, though he said he didn’t know who the officers in the recording were. 


RCMP officers in another audio clip played in court again refer to blockade members in face paint as orcs and can be heard laughing. 

The same officers in this audio clip are also heard laughing about a person Mahon said was arrested Nov. 18, 2021.  “That big f–king ogre looking dude that is in those videos he is actually like autistic,” an officer says in the clip.

“Then the f–king guys just beat the shit out of him and then he started crying. I felt bad for him, apparently the sergeant grabbed his balls and twisted, I guess. He was on the ground and everyone was just grabbing limbs. He didn’t have a limb to grab so he just like grabs his balls like ‘You done now? You done resisting?'”

These events have not been verified by CBC News. 

“This is extremely offensive because it refers to someone being arrested,” said Mahon. Elliott said he agreed with that statement. 

Joking about breaking down doors

In a third audio clip, RCMP officers are heard joking about tactical officers breaking down the doors of a tiny house and a cabin on a Coastal GasLink drill site on Nov. 19, 2021, when the three accused were arrested. 

The officers refer to The Shining, a movie in which actor Jack Nicholson breaks down a door with an axe and sticks his head through.   “In this clip police appear to be comparing the breach of those houses to a horror movie and laughing,” said Mahon. 

In the clip officers can be heard saying “Here’s Johnny,” a famous line from the scene. 

The officers then continue to talk about why the police can’t use gas on the people inside the tiny house and the cabin.  “That’s what they always do, just gas, gas, gas,” said an officer in the audio. 

Elliott said this is referring to a practice by the RCMP emergency response team to use a non-lethal gas similar to tear gas on people inside a home to get them to leave. 

“Though [gassing] is a common and much safer practice than going into a house to confront someone, in this case I believed it would inflame the situation and look really bad,” said Elliott.


Jackie McKay, Reporter

Jackie McKay is a Métis journalist working for CBC Indigenous covering B.C. She was a reporter for CBC North for more than five years spending the majority of her time in Nunavut. McKay has also worked in Whitehorse, Thunder Bay, and Yellowknife.