(Ministry of Finance/Photo by Michael Bessler)

In a continuation of the nationwide protest movement in support of Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, hundreds of people have planned demonstrations at multiple B.C. government offices in Victoria.

The event, titled ‘BC Government Shutdown’, invites protesters to picket outside every Ministry office in Victoria on February 14th from 8 a.m. til noon.

See also: Wet’suwet’en supporters tear down camp at BC Legislature after six days of protests

According to a Google Spreadsheet that records all confirmed participants, a total of 341 people have signed up so far.

The main targets appear to be:

  • Ministry of Education and Intergovernmental Relations
  • Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training
  • Ministry of Environment; MCFD branch
  • Ministry of Attorney General
  • Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
  • Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
  • Ministry of Children & Family Development (Child Protection)
  • Ministry of Finance

“At the suggestion of Indigenous Youth, we call on settlers to help take responsibility for the colonial institutions causing violence against Wet’suwet’en land and people by picketing BC government buildings,” reads the Facebook event description.

Nearly 2,200 Facebook users have expressed interest in attending these protests. Those who show up will meet at pre-arranged locations near the Ministry they signed up to picket before walking over to the offices.

A statement from the Ministry of Finance on Thursday confirmed their awareness of these planned protests.

“British Columbians have the right to free speech and a peaceful protest. It is also important that public service employees — who work everyday to deliver the services that British Columbians depend on — are not subject to verbal, physical or emotional abuse,” reads the statement sent to Victoria Buzz by email.

“We will not ask public servants to put themselves into any situation where they do not feel safe. Safety is our top priority.”

Victoria Police have also stated that they will be monitoring events on Friday.

“During previous protest incidents, protesters have moved without warning to blockade intersections, public roads and bridges. Officers and resources are being deployed in anticipation of these actions,” said VicPD spokesperson Bowen Osoko.

Background

For six days, Indigenous youth and allies camped out at the BC Legislature steps, blocked two main bridges and, ahead of Tuesday’s Throne speech, blockaded all entrances to the BC Legislature building in an effort to prevent politicians and journalists from entering.

Their actions are part of a movement spurred by the arrests of Wet’suwet’en people defending their territory in northern B.C. against the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

On February 6th, youth protestors in Victoria issued the following demands to their government representatives:

  • That they do everything within their power as a Canadian politician to ensure that the
    following demands of Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are met, and provide proof of
    their efforts to meet the following demands via direct contact with the youth,
  • That the RCMP and associated security and policing services be immediately withdrawn
    from Wet’suwet’en lands, in agreement with the most recent letter provided by the
    United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s (CERD)
    request,
  • That the province cease construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project and suspend
    permits,
  • That the UNDRIP and Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected by the state and RCMP,
  • That the provincial and federal government, RCMP and private industry employed by
    CGL respect our laws and our governance system, and refrain from using any force to
    access Indigenous lands or remove Indigenous people, and
  • That the BC Premier and relevant Ministers meet with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs to
    receive and adhere to these demands.

The protesters took down their encampment at the Legislature on Tuesday night after six days of camping there.

On Wednesday, Victoria Police announced that they are investigating four alleged cases of assault that took place during the demonstrations at the parliament buildings on Tuesday.

See also: VicPD investigate after four people allegedly assaulted during protests at BC legislature

Officers stated that three people reported minor injuries sustained during the protests and the fourth person who reported an assault was not injured but said that the equipment they were carrying was damaged.

Police have not clarified whether the assault victims were protesters, legislature staff, politicians, or reporters. No suspects have been identified as the investigation is in its early stages.

VicPD spokesperson Bowen Osoko tells Victoria Buzz video evidence of an assault in at least one of the four incidents, but it remains to be seen whether this footage will be shared with public.

While protesters have vehemently denied allegations of assault, reiterating that it was a peaceful protest and organizers instructed everyone to keep their hands to themselves, Victoria Police continue to ask witnesses and victims to come forward.

In response, Victoria councillor Ben Isitt took to Twitter on Tuesday night to denounce VicPD, stating that allegations of assault are “hogwash designed to discredit Indigenous youth and their supporters”.

VicPD Chief Del Manak responded to this tweet, calling Isitt’s comments “off base and disrespectful”.

(Twitter)

Isitt went on to denounce “corporate media” in a blog post, accusing press of “frantically spinning the non-violent blockade of the legislature as some kind of ‘violent protest’”.

Victoria Buzz has reached out to councillor Isitt for comment.

More information is expected to be made available about these alleged assaults as the investigation unfolds.

Anyone who has information about these incidents is asked to contact VicPD at (250) 995-7654.

BC Government Shutdown

  • When: Friday, February 14th, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • Where: Multiple provincial government offices across Victoria