Protest held in uptown Waterloo to support Wet'suwet'en First Nation

Andrew Cummings
January 9, 2019

But pro-pipeline activists, including those in yellow vests, met them from across a police barricade, at times overtaking the chants with their own message.

"We did expect some to show up but the forces that they used, the wonderful numbers that they used, the tactics that they used, were actually something we did not expect as peaceful people".

Police concerns about a protest in Ottawa forced Trudeau to move to another building close to Parliament Hill to give a speech at a forum.

The Wet'suwet'en, made up of five clans, never signed a treaty ceding their land to the government of Canada, and retain control of who enters it.

"The RCMP respects and protects the right to peaceful demonstrations as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms", it said.

And although elected First Nations officials have signed deals with TransCanada, hereditary chiefs of the area have voiced opposition to the pipeline project. "Real consensus will be built when the parties, with very different views, come together in meaningful and productive dialogue". UNDRIP's Article 10 clearly states "Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their land or territories".

An RCMP statement says the arrests came after officers realized a resolution was unlikely, even though they had spoken with camp members about removing the blockade and set up a meeting between hereditary chiefs and the pipeline company. Gidumt'en Clan spokesperson Molly Wickham was arrested on her land.

While members of another Wet'suwet'en house, the Unist'ot'en of the Gilseyhu clan, erected a camp and checkpoint in the area of the planned pipeline nearly seven years ago, Wickham said the Gidimt'en checkpoint is more recent.

In a statement posted on its website, the Unist'ot'en camp issued an global call to action for the Gidimt'en access checkpoint.

"We will be gathering to demand that Canada's provincial and federal governments uphold their responsibilities to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and 'Anuc niwhi'it'en (Wet'suwet'en law)", wrote Climate Justice Edmonton in a release.

The march in Vancouver is part of a larger global day of action organized in support of those at the Unist'ot'en camp.

The federal NDP's reconciliation critic says the justification used for the RCMP's intervention is "pretty lame" in an era of supposed reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

The Mounties placed exclusion areas and road closures near the Morice River Bridge where the blockade was located that prevented Coastal GasLink from getting access to its pipeline right of way.

LNG Canada announced in October that it was moving ahead with its plans for a $40-billion pipeline and liquefied natural gas export facility in Kitimat.

In Halifax, about 150 protesters gathered on the steps of Halifax Regional Police headquarters, where the RCMP has a significant presence.

"They're a sovereign nation and that's their own territory", local activist Lorena Shepley said of the unceded territory belonging to the Wet'suwet'en Nation.

The arrests drew strong criticism from leaders of the First Nation and protest camp representatives as well as social media users from across Canada and beyond.

In a notice of civil claim filed November 23, Coastal GasLink says construction on the pipeline is scheduled to begin this month for completion in 2021.

"This is wrong and we have to stop it".

The statement describes potential RCMP action as "an act of war", and evidence that Canada is criminalizing and using violence against Indigenous people, despite paying "lip service" to reconciliation.

- With files from Dan Healing in Calgary, Dirk Meissner in Victoria, Mike MacDonald in Halifax, Kristy Kirkup in Ottawa, Hina Alam in Vancouver and Paola Loriggio in Toronto.

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