Anti-pipeline rallies supporting Wet'suwet'en block train, ferry routes
TORONTO -- Dozens of people have been arrested after disrupting travel across the country in a show of solidarity for the Wet'suwet'en Nation, whose hereditary chiefs oppose the construction of a gas pipeline through northern British Columbia.
Over the weekend and continuing into Monday, rallies were held in Vancouver, Victoria, Ottawa, Toronto, St. John’s, N.L. and Belleville, Ont., to name a few.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline would span 670 kilometres from Dawson Creek, B.C., to the shores near Kitimat, B.C.
LNG Canada, the company building the pipeline, has reached an agreement with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route, including the Wet'suwet'en council, but the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs say the councils only have the authority over reserve lands, while they claim title to a 22,000-square-kilometre area that was never ceded.
“Those are colonial laws, those are not Wet'suwet'en laws,” Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told CTV News. “The Wet'suwet'en laws have been here long before the colonial governments and they still hold the land rights to that territory, which is unceded territory.”
Last week, the RCMP began to enforce a court injunction against people camped outside a pipeline work site near Houston, B.C.
Officers enforcing the injunction arrested 11 people on Saturday after they allegedly barricaded themselves in a warming centre near the work site. They were charged with breach of trust and were scheduled to appear in court on Monday.
Pam Palmater, a Mi'kmaq lawyer and the chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, said the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which the British Columbia government adopted in October 2019, stipulates that Indigenous people cannot be removed from their land and have complete control over their territory.
‘Talking to part of a nation is not talking to all of the nation and as we know in the Wet'suwet'en Nation, they may have six Indian Act chief and council systems, but they also have the hereditary system, which has never been displaced,” she told CTV’s Power Play.
Gary Mar, the CEO of the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, said he believes having the 20 elected band councils on board with the project means it’s being held up by just a few people who oppose it.
“It’s a very challenging issue to have a few members, not all the members of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en, who agree with this,” he said. “Some of them, in fact, do agree with moving forward on this project. They do recognize the importance of the project to creating economic opportunities for them.”
Support for the Wet'suwet'en people was seen across the country this weekend, as protesters occupied government buildings, blocked sea ports and halted railways.
VANCOUVER AND VICTORIA
In Vancouver and nearby Delta, nearly 50 people were arrested on Monday morning after police executed a court injunction against protesters blocking entrances to the Port of Vancouver and DeltaPort.
“What they’re doing is standing up for us,” said protester Jordan Hollarsmith told CTV Vancouver. “What everyone here is defending is the right to a clean, and healthy, and safe future.”
The port entry points have since been cleared.
Protesters in Vancouver would not detail their plans for further demonstrations, but added this is likely the last time local commuters would be delayed.
Later in the day Monday, the demonstrations shifted to intersections and train tracks in the city.
In Victoria, protesters are camped outside the B.C. legislature and lit a ceremonial fire on Monday. They plan to remain camped there until the provincial government addresses the issue.
"In this day and age, it is immoral, it is unjust and it is inhumane for Canada to continue to criminalize and vilify Indigenous law," Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, one of the protesters in Victoria, told The Canadian Press.
In Ottawa, a group of Indigenous youth, supporters and allies entered the Department of Justice building in Ottawa, where Justice Minister David Lametti’s ministerial office is, to stage a sit-in over the Wet'suwet'en blockade.
The group is demanding a meeting with the minister, but he is not in town this week. They intend to stay as long as their needs are met, which include the RCMP falling back from the blockade near Houston and having Lametti meet with the hereditary chiefs in northern British Columbia.
"I think in general we want Canadians to support us,” Gabrielle Fayant, one of the protesters, told CTV News. “For so long in Canadian history, Canadians have stood by while Indigenous people have been violently prosecuted and oppressed and now is the time for Canadians to finally stand up and show us that they really believe in reconciliation because Indigenous people are losing faith in this idea of reconciliation really quickly."
Some justice officials did meet with the group on Monday, but the protesters say it’s not enough as they do not work directly in Lametti’s office.
BELLEVILLE AND TORONTO
In Belleville, Ont., protesters have blocked the Via Rail train line which connects Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
“We will stay right here until they try to remove us … we are protectors of the Mother Earth,” one protester told CTV News Toronto. “We are here to support our brothers and sisters out west … I’m here with everybody else to stand up for our rights.”
Via Rail said on Monday that the demonstrations have thus far forced the cancellations of 111 trains, impacting more than 19,500 passengers.
The Canadian National Railway has been granted an injunction to remove protesters from the tracks near Belleville and is working with local police enforce the motion.
Other protesters blocked the Canadian Pacific tracks in the west end of Toronto. The group behind this protest said they chose the CP tracks due to the company’s involvement in transporting materials used for the pipeline.
Protesters in Winnipeg halted traffic during rush hour at the busy intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street.
Protesters also blocked a stretch of Portage Avenue on Feb. 7 for a demonstration in front of the RCMP Manitoba headquarters.
At the University of Alberta in Edmonton, students staged a walk out and rally on the campus in support of the Wet'suwet'en Nation.
The students then moved to Enbridge Place in downtown Edmonton for a secondary rally held by Indigenous Youth for Wet'suwet'en.
ST. JOHN’S, N.L.
About 100 protesters staged a rally outside Memorial University’s campus in St. John’s, N.L. on Monday before Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan was set to speak at a rate mitigation announcement.
"Natural resource development in this country, at a time when we've committed to net zero, when a majority of Canadians have voted with clear concern about climate change, there are going to be protests and people feel very strongly about it," O'Regan told reporters following the announcement.
"I was more than happy to hear their concerns and I'm sure I'll be hearing a number of others as I go across the country."
MORE DEMONSTRATIONS TO COME
Palmater said she believes the demonstrations across the country will continue until the provincial and federal governments act.
“Whenever there’s a situation where the RCMP is violating the human rights of native rights of one group, you can be guaranteed that there will be more marches, rallies, protests, occupations of legislatures, railways and other infrastructure to block, to call attention to these massive breaches of human and native rights,” she said.
With files from CTV Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer Rachel Aiello, CTV Vancouver, CTV Victoria, CTV Toronto, The Canadian Press