Wet'suwet'en: Nationwide rallies erupt through holiday weekend
TORONTO -- Rallies have sprung up across the country as demonstrators used the holiday weekend to voice their support for the hereditary chiefs of Wet'suwet'en Nation in northern British Columbia.
In downtown Toronto, several hundred demonstrators marched 4.2 kilometres from a park in the west end to Queen’s Park, home of the Ontario legislative building, effectively blocking the downtown traffic in the process.
“I think it’s really important for us to just take a stand and make a lot of noise and that’s all we can do right now,” one participant told CTV News Toronto. “We want to be here in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en. We want land back and we want respect and we want no pipeline.”
In Montreal, several dozen supporters blocked a street near McGill University for about an hour on Monday afternoon. Their supporters, who stood opposite the school’s primary entrance, could be heard chanting: "From the mountains to the sea, Wet'suwet'en be free. Respect Indigenous sovereignty."
Traffic restrictions were put in place at Thousand Islands Bridge, which connects Canada and the U.S. just east of Kingston, Ont., for three hours due to a demonstration at the bridge.
Provincial police said approximately 40 people took part in the demonstration as travellers were told to take another entry point about an hour away if they planned to cross the border in either direction.
In Brechin, Ont., near Orillia, a handful of people gathered for a prayer session near a rail crossing in the community.
Earlier this weekend, similar demonstrators disrupted traffic at a border crossing in Niagara Falls and at a busy street in Regina, while demonstrators set up rail blockades outside Montreal, at a rail yard in Vaughan, Ont. and in East Vancouver.
A separate train blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont. is now into its second week. Via Rail said the blockades -- specifically the one outside Belleville -- forced the cancellations of nearly every train route nationwide.
The Canada-wide demonstrations began after the RCMP moved into Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia to enforce a court injunction allowing Coastal GasLink access to a worksite for a pipeline that will run through the territory.
Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route, but the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the band councils do not have jurisdiction in the region as the land was never ceded in treaty.
The First Nation has now said it would not impede workers’ access to the construction site, but want officers to remove a temporary office installed along the logging route leading to the site.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled a diplomatic trip to the Caribbean on Monday in favour of an emergency meeting with senior cabinet members to address the disruptions.
Some demonstrators are calling for the prime minister to take a more hands-on approach when it comes to addressing their concerns.
“Sitting in offices and going through all these meetings is one thing but actually coming out and seeing with your own eyes, that could be a little bit different,” Jayden Persaud, one of the supporters in Tyendinaga, told CTV News.