Two demonstrations have been organized in Victoria to protest the arrests of six people who were blocking the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern BC.
Just after 4 a.m. on February 6th, RCMP in tactical gear arrested six people at one of the three camps made by supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, in compliance with an injunction order issued by the BC Supreme Court.
According to an RCMP press release, the six individuals were transported to the Houston RCMP Detachment for processing.
“While optically, due to the number of police officers deployed, our presence may appear imposing. In reality, a minimal amount of force was required to support the arrests or removal of individuals from within the exclusion zone,” said the RCMP in their statement.
On Thursday morning, hundreds of students and youth protestors rallied at the BC Legislature building in Victoria carrying messages of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people and their supporters.
Today Indigenous Youth in Solidarity with #Wetsuweten are locked down to the ceremonial gate in Lekwungen territories, at the BC Legislature.
— Stacie Swain (@StacieASwain) February 6, 2020
As part of their call to action, the young demonstrators issued an open letter to MLA Carole James and MP Laurel Collins.
“Coastal GasLink (CGL) has never obtained free, prior, and informed consent to operate within unceded Wet’suwet’en territories,” reads the letter.
“The decision from the BC Supreme Court to extend CGL’s injunction order is a criminalization of Wet’suwet’en law and directly violates their constitutionally protected rights to occupy their own unceded lands, as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).”
The arrests have also been criticized as a hypocritical move by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs after the NDP government declared British Columbia to be the first province in Canada to align its laws with the UNDRIP, back in October 2019.
“Indigenous rights are human rights and they cannot be ignored or sidestepped for any reason in the world, and certainly not for an economic interest,” said UBCIC President, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, in a press release.
“We call on the RCMP to immediately stand down, and we call on the Crown to immediately take responsibility for ending this violence.”
For their part, youth protestors at the rally in Victoria on Thursday have 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)
- That the province cease construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project and suspend
- 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 protestors began their demonstration on Thursday morning and plan to remain at the legislature until their demands have been met.
While there has been no response from Carole James or Premier John Horgan, Victoria MP Laurel Collins issued a tweet expressing her solidarity with the movement.
“The RCMP needs to stand down,” writes Collins. “Sending solidarity to all those impacted and to and all the Indigenous youth who are fighting to ensure Indigenous rights are respected and upheld.”
The RCMP needs to stand down. Sending solidarity to all those impacted and to and all the Indigenous youth who are fighting to ensure Indigenous rights are respected and upheld. https://t.co/XAwSGPknry
— Laurel Collins (@Laurel_BC) February 6, 2020
A second demonstration to support Indigenous sovereignty has been planned in Victoria, slated to begin at 8 a.m. on Friday, February 7th.
Supporters of the movement are invited to gather at Centennial Square and bring noisemakers as demonstrators plan to address the cause and express their stance.
“We will rise up in support of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, Wet’suwet’en Sovereignty, and Wet’suwet’en Resistance until everyone arrested are released without charges, RCMP harassment ends, and respectful talks commence,” reads the event description.
- When: 8 a.m., Friday, February 7th
- Where: Centennial Square