NIAGARA FALLS—Blockades and demonstrations that have brought traffic to a standstill on rail lines and ports across Canada in support of opposition to a pipeline in British Columbia spilled over into Niagara on Sunday, closing the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.
Traffic on the Canadian side of the normally busy international crossing ground to a halt for more than an hour in the afternoon, after protesters marched from Highway 420 to gather at the bridge on the Canadian side at about 3 p.m.
It was the latest in a string of blockades that have taken place in Canada as the dispute over the pipeline by Coastal GasLink through the Wet’suwet’en nation’s traditional territory.
In addition to supporting the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ opposition, Sunday’s peaceful protest at the Rainbow Bridge was also held to voice opposition to actions by the RCMP to arrest supporters from the territory of the First Nation.
Other injustices inflicted on Indigenous peoples, from the blight of residential schools to what speakers said are broken promises by government on treaty rights and inaction on the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women, were also brought up by speakers at the event.
The nationwide protests and blockades have brought freight rail shipping to a halt in areas, and led to Via Rail stopping passenger trains, all with an economic impact of millions of dollars.
At the Rainbow Bridge, speaker Philip Davis thanked the hundreds of people who gathered to send a message to government.
“You’re standing up for future generations,” he said. “You’re letting the powers that be know we will no longer stand for this s–.”
“The RCMP is occupying unceded territory,” she said. “That is not Canada: you are not allowed there, you are not welcome.
“These demonstrations are going to keep happening until the RCMP leaves Wet’suwet’en land,” she said to wild cheers from the crowd.
The rally created miles-long lineups of cars on approaches to the bridge. Two men and two women from Pennsylvania sitting in an SUV said they’d been cooling their heels for almost an hour.
“We’re not too happy,” said the male driver, who refused to provide his name. “I don’t think they have the right to block a bridge.”
But Sean Vanderklis, who co-hosts a local radio show on St. Catharines radio station CKTB on Indigenous issues with Karl Dockstader, said they had every right to. While the weather warmed up to just above freezing for the protest, “if it had been -20 C we would have come out here today to do our work.”
“This is it,” Vanderklis said of the growing national movement. “It’s the last straw. Reconciliation is dead if it ever existed.”
People carried signs with slogans such as “Honour our treaty rights,” “Native rights start today” and “Kill the pipeline: save the land.” SOURCE