Indigenous youth in B.C. say protest goes far beyond pipeline issue
TORONTO -- A group of Indigenous youth who are protesting outside British Columbia’s legislature say their fight goes beyond solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.
The group, mostly Indigenous university students, first voiced their support for the chiefs back in January and have staged several demonstrations since, including blocking the entrance to the B.C. legislature on Feb. 11 before Premier John Horgan’s throne speech.
Now, the group has escalated their actions by setting up a camp outside the legislature, where they’ve been positioned for three days.
“We, Indigenous youth, are taking our power back,” Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a member of the group called Indigenous Youth for Wet'suwet'en, told reporters on Wednesday.
Over the past month, protests and rail blockades have emerged in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in northern British Columbia, who oppose a Coastal GasLink pipeline from being built on their traditional territory.
The demonstrations quickly escalated earlier this week when members of the Ontario Provincial Police moved in on a rail blockade in support of the chiefs in Tyendinaga, Ont., and arrested several people.
Just like the hereditary chiefs, Indigenous Youth for Wet'suwet'en is calling for pipeline construction to be halted, for members of the RCMP to back off the territory and for meaningful dialogue between the chiefs and members of provincial and federal government.
“Good-faith negotiations do not look like seizing Indigenous lands at gunpoint,” Blaney said.
While the Indigenous Youth for Wet'suwet'en fully support the hereditary chiefs, they believe their fight is also extends further.
“This movement we are part of is not out of hatred for others, it’s out of love for the land water,” said Saul Brown, a member of the group and a law student.
Late Wednesday, British Columbia Premier John Horgan said the province has “not been able to come to agreement for a meeting with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs at this time,” while the hereditary chiefs said in a news release that both governments “abruptly declined” talks.
Earlier in the day, the federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the RCMP has closed their mobile unit, but officers will continue to patrol the territory.
“Thousands of Canadians that live in that area are entitled to policing services,” he told reporters.