Arrests, travel disruptions as Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests spread across Canada

New demonstrations came after police moved to dismantle a blockade near Belleville, Ont.

Transportation disruptions spread across the country Tuesday, as demonstrators continued to protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a $6-billion natural gas pipeline project in northern B.C.

A day after police descended on a rail blockade near Belleville, Ont., arresting 10 protesters, new disturbances popped up across the country in response, including in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

Fresh blockades caused major delays on the Greater Toronto Area’s GO Transit system as the busy afternoon rush hour got underway Tuesday.

A spokesperson for regional transit agency Metrolinx, which operates the popular commuter rail line, said at least three routes were experiencing significant slowdowns, causing crowding at Union Station, a major travel hub in downtown Toronto.

Service was also affected on a route west of the city earlier Tuesday, with police in Hamilton serving a court injunction to protesters who set up a blockade along rail lines there.

Protesters are arrested for blocking the Port of Vancouver on Tuesday amid demonstrations in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

 

About a dozen people, including some from the Six Nations of the Grand River, had gathered on the tracks, affecting GO train service between Hamilton and Niagara Falls. The blockade temporarily forced the cancellation of service at the Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Hamilton or West Harbour stations and also affected CN and CP rail service.

A Facebook page called “Wet’suwet’en Strong: Hamilton in Solidarity” said the protesters shut down the rail lines because of the “violence perpetrated towards Indigenous land defenders and their supporters” and the “forced removal and criminalization of Indigenous people from their lands.”

The protesters had peacefully left the site by Tuesday evening, Hamilton police said.

In nearby Caledonia, Ont., protesters had also blocked a section of Highway 6.

Colleen Davis, a member of the Mohawk Nation (Bear Clan), said the highway will be blocked until the demands of the Wet’suwet’en are met.

“The onus is now on Justin Trudeau, on the OPP, on the RCMP to withdraw from our territories,” she said.

Arrests in B.C.

In British Columbia, nearly two dozen people were arrested after refusing to leave blockades across the province on Tuesday. Demonstrations were taking place at the Port of Vancouver, the ceremonial front steps to the B.C. Legislature and some rural rail lines across the province.

Six people were taken into custody after police moved to clear a key entrance to the Port of Vancouver early Tuesday afternoon.

Members of the Listuguj Mi’kmaq Nation blocked a regional rail line that runs between Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula and New Brunswick on Tuesday. (Luc Paradis/Radio-Canada)

Three others were arrested after blocking a CP Rail line in the B.C. Interior. RCMP arrested 14 more demonstrators, including a hereditary chief, near New Hazelton, B.C., overnight.

Those three blockades have since ended, though the demonstration at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria continues.

Protests expand in Quebec

Anti-pipeline protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs had also expanded in Quebec, with blockades in Lennoxville, in the Eastern Townships, and Listuguj, on the Gaspé Peninsula.

Police were moving in to enforce injunctions to end the blockades on Tuesday afternoon.

 

Earlier Tuesday, a Quebec Superior Court judge granted an injunction against a blockade along a Canadian Pacific rail line in the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake, south of Montreal, which has disrupting both freight and commuter rail services between Montreal and several communities to the south for weeks.

The injunction took effect immediately, but it was not immediately clear if it would be enforced.

At a public meeting in Kahnawake Monday night, the head of the Mohawk Peackeepers police service said it had no intention of enforcing a court order against the protesters.

In a statement, CP Rail said that despite obtaining the injunction, it is encouraging peaceful dialogue to resolve the matter. The company also said it secured the injunction to deal with any so-called copycat blockades that may emerge in the future.

A fire burns on the recently opened CN tracks in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., on Monday. Earlier Monday police removed a rail blockade in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

Still, on Tuesday, Premier François Legault raised the possibility that Quebec’s provincial police force, the Sûreté du Québec, would get involved.

“The barricades have to be dismantled for the good of the economy,” he said. “There is an urgency to re-establish [rail] service. The Quebec economy is losing $100 million daily. There are people suffering.”

On Monday, the the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake put out a statement condemning police actions against the Tyendinaga Mohawks near Belleville, Ont., and Trudeau’s public call on Friday for all blockades to come down.

“We cannot state strongly enough our extreme disappointment in the absolute lack of good faith shown by a prime minister who continually expresses his government’s priority is improving its relationship with Indigenous Peoples,” it read.

“What has happened over the past few days has, in fact, undone progress in building relations with Indigenous Peoples.”

WATCH | Pipeline supporter says hereditary chiefs don’t speak for Wet’suwet’en

A former councillor for another B.C. band says there’s an internal dispute between Wet’suwet’en elected and hereditary leaders. 6:30

The new protests came after Ontario Provincial Police had descended Monday on a rail blockade set up more than two weeks earlier by the Tyendinaga Mohawk near Belleville, Ont.

That cleared the way for train service to resume in the area, but as the first train moved along the tracks around 7 p.m. ET, protesters tossed a tire onto the tracks and set it on fire.

While the main protest camp outside Belleville has been dismantled, a few Mohawk demonstrators remained on the south side of the CN Rail tracks and said they are determined to stay as long as the RCMP continued to patrol Wet’suwet’en territory.

OPP officers were also still on site, saying they’re there to make sure the court order to keep the tracks clear is obeyed.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, issued a statement after the Tyendinaga arrests, saying that the police action “shows once again that we will never achieve reconciliation through force.”

‘Aiming for a peaceful resolution’

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said it’s up to police services with local jurisdiction to handle the protests.

“It’s important that both a strategy of negotiation and discussion continue. And at the same time, we have called upon those who are causing those blockades and disruption of rail service to take down those barricades to allow services to resume,” he said Tuesday afternoon.

“And where the law is not being followed, then the police of jurisdiction will deal with it.”

Earlier this month, RCMP in B.C. enforced a court injunction against those preventing contractors from accessing the construction area for the Coastal GasLink project, which would carry natural gas from near Dawson Creek to a coastal LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat.

Twenty First Nation band councils along the route have approved the project. But the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say that no pipelines can be built through their traditional territory without their consent.

Anti-pipeline demonstrators march to block a container truck entrance in Vancouver on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

 

On Friday, the RCMP in British Columbia moved its officers out of an outpost on Wet’suwet’en territory to a nearby detachment in the town of Houston.

A spokesperson for the force said they continue to have discussions with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Tuesday that the B.C. RCMP and the hereditary chiefs spoke Monday and they’d have more to say later.

“We’re all aiming for a peaceful resolution,” he said following a cabinet meeting. “We’re working minute by minute on this.” SOURCE

Demonstrators arrested as police move to end blockades at Port of Vancouver

Protesters also blocked front entrance to B.C. Legislature

A person is arrested for blocking the Port of Vancouver at Clark Drive and East Hastings Street on Tuesday. The blockade came together in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on Monday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Nearly two dozen people have been arrested after refusing to leave blockades across B.C. on Tuesday, after they came together in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

Six people were taken into custody after police moved to clear a key entrance to the Port of Vancouver early Tuesday afternoon.

Three others were arrested after blocking a CP Rail line in the B.C. Interior. RCMP arrested 14 more people, including a hereditary chief, near New Hazelton, B.C. overnight.

The three blockades have since ended.

The demonstrations were the latest in a series of disruptions organized by people acting in support of hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who oppose a natural gas pipeline project that crosses their traditional territory in northwestern B.C. SOURCE

WATCH | Police arrest protesters at Port of Vancouver blockade

The VPD enforced an injunction against those refusing to leave a blockade at Clark Drive and East Hastings Street on Feb. 25, 2020. 1:07

A fourth major demonstration is still in place on the steps of the provincial legislature in Victoria.

Vancouver police moved to dismantle the blockade at the coastal port around noon PT, nearly 24 hours after it began. The Port of Vancouver won an injunction barring the public from interfering with truck traffic travelling in and out of the busy harbour on Feb. 9, after a similar protest at the same site.

Most demonstrators packed up after police arrived with a warning Tuesday, but those arrested had refused to leave. The area has since reopened to traffic.

Vancouver police enforce an injunction at a key entrance to the Port of Vancouver on Tuesday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

 

To the northwest, the RCMP said it arrested 14 people after a blockade, which had first interfered with a CN Rail line, shut down a major highway overnight.

The railway, near New Hazelton, runs through the territory of Gitx’san Nation, members of which were at the blockade.

Gitx’san Nation hereditary chief Spookw was among those arrested. He was later released.

The demonstration later shut down Highway 16, as protesters shifted their blockade to the only east-west highway route in the area. RCMP said the blockade ended around 3:30 a.m. PT.

Police stand in a line at a CN Rail blockade near New Hazelton on Monday night. The northwestern railway runs through the territory of Gitx’san Nation, members of which were at the blockade. (Dinize Ste ohn tsiy (Rob)/Twitter)

 

Mounties said its officers later noted that “four patrol cars parked across from the highway had their tires slashed.” Officers are investigating the damage.

An initial statement from RCMP said its officers arrested seven people, but the number was later amended to 14.

Near Kamloops, Mounties arrested three people who continued to block the CP Rail tracks near the village of Chase. Other demonstrators on site left voluntarily.

People who had blocked another rail line in Abbotsford on Tuesday left of their own volition.

Demonstrators clog up the steps of the B.C. Legislature as Victoria police monitor the situation. (Mike McArthur/CBC News)

 

In the provincial capital, a number of demonstrators gathered on the ceremonial front entrance of the B.C. Legislature remained in place Tuesday afternoon. A handful locked themselves to the iron bars at the entrance.

The legislature was closed to the public Tuesday as a result.

Several hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the development of the Coastal GasLink pipeline — a project that would cross their traditional territory in northern B.C. Numerous similar rail and road blockades have sprung up in multiple provinces throughout the month, halting freight and passenger train service for much of the country.

More than 50 demonstrators were arrested at ports in B.C.’s Lower Mainland in earlier protests this month.

Victoria police continued to monitor a demonstration on the steps of the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday, as a few dozen people continued to block the area. (Tanya Fletcher/CBC)

SOURCE

Behind CN, CP’s quiet deal to skirt railway blockades and keep Canada’s vital goods moving

Federal government kept the ‘rare’ arrangement under wraps, fearing the blockades would spread

Two CN locomotives sit idle on the tracks near Napanee Ont. (Largs Hagberg/Canadian Press)

Quiet talks brokered by a government desperate to stop a growing economic threat led to two rail rivals coming together with a workaround to bypass the Tyendinaga blockade site.

Since last week, Canada’s two largest railways — CN and Canadian Pacific — have been quietly sharing their rail lines to transport essential supplies to communities in need, according to multiple government, CN and industry sources.

Protests by the Mohawks of Tyendinaga crippled passenger and freight train traffic on CN’s line near Belleville for more than two weeks in solidarity with anti-pipeline protests in northern B.C against the construction of the planned Coastal GasLink pipeline. Ontario Provincial Police officers on Monday arrested 10 demonstrators to get service back up and running on the line.

But as a result of what multiple government sources are describing as a very “rare” collaboration between the two rail giants, CN trains have been circumventing blockades using alternate routes — some through the U.S. — to continue deliveries to Quebec and Maritime communities facing shortages of essential goods such as propane, chemicals for water treatment facilities and animal feed.

WATCH | OPP breaks up rail blockade:
http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1701771331730/

CBC reporter Olivia Stefanovich describes how quietly the OPP moved in before arresting protesters at the blockade. 2:10

 

Transport Canada and Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s office approached the two companies and helped to negotiate the rail-sharing deal — which is still active in parts of the country dealing with blockades.

Garneau said today the collaboration will not take care of the freight backlog completely, but it will help.

“It does give us some extra wiggle room,” he said in French outside today’s cabinet meeting. “But eventually we want all the barricades to come down.”
http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1702353987863/

Transport Minister Marc Garneau reacts to CN and CP sharing their rail lines to transport essential supplies to communities affected by the blockades. 1:15

The deal was kept under wraps by all involved; even the industries affected weren’t told about the arrangement. The Retail Council of Canada told CBC News it didn’t know about the deal. Neither did associations representing propane suppliers in Quebec and across Canada. The groups had been warning of looming supply shortages in Quebec and Eastern Canada, where families, farmers and companies have been rationing goods. Many households use propane to heat their homes and barns.

Government sources say they didn’t advertise the deal, fearing that more blockades could pop up in response.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at the CN/CP arrangement yesterday on the way into question period in the House of Commons.

“Over the past number of days we’ve been working with rail carriers to ensure that many trains continue to use alternate routes to get through and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to avoid some of the most serious shortages,” said Trudeau.

Karl Littler, senior vice president, public affairs, of the Retail Council of Canada, learned about the arrangement from CBC News and commended it.

“We’re talking about foods, we’re talking about fuel to keep people heating in what can be a cold winter,” said Littler. “You’re talking about a lot of stuff that Canadians need everyday. I think it’s the responsible thing to look to see what alternative channels exist and if that means collaboration in these circumstances, so much the better.”

One CN conductor said they witnessed how covert the operation has been. The source said they saw specially trained CN workers use CP engines, with that company’s logo on them, to haul unmarked CN cargo.

CP told CBC News it didn’t have a comment to add. CN also isn’t commenting on the deal, saying only that it’s “pleased the illegal blockade in Tyendinaga has come to an end.”

“We are also monitoring our network for any further disruptions at this time,” said CN spokesperson Jonathan Abecassis in a statement.

A Canadian Pacific Railway employee walks along the side of a locomotive in a marshalling yard in Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

 

SOURCE

Wet’suwet’en solidarity demonstrators rally on Toronto rail line late into night after GO train rush-hour delay

At rush hour, Union Station was jam-packed with frustrated commuters trying to figure out how they were going to get home. Regular service finally resumed at about 6:30 p.m., but not before thousands of passengers were delayed.

A woman is arrested after she refused to leave the barricade at the rail lines behind Lambton Arena on Tuesday night.

Wet’suwet’en solidarity demonstrators, who disrupted GO train service for the commute home Tuesday afternoon, were still camped out on a rail line in the city’s west end amidst a heavy police presence Tuesday night.

At rush hour, Union Station was jam-packed with frustrated commuters trying to figure out how they were going to get home. Regular service finally resumed at about 6:30 p.m., but not before thousands of passengers were delayed.

In a message posted to Twitter shortly after 4:30 p.m., Metrolinx said incidents on the tracks have “the potential to disrupt customers throughout our entire system.”

Earlier, protesters had blocked the commercial rail tracks, behind Lambton Arena, near Dundas and Jane Streets. The blockade started around 4 p.m., with demonstrators sitting on the tracks and singing Indigenous songs as they held up signs supporting the Wet’suwet’en and Tyendinaga protests.

Protesters occupy the rail lines behind Lambton Arena in the west end of the city, disrupting the commute home for thousands of GO Transit passengers.

At about 10 p.m., between 20 and 30 remained on the tracks surrounded by police. A short distance away, roughly a hundred protesters huddled around the fence that closes off the rail line, chanting, holding signs and raising their fists.

Hours earlier, police started removing the protesters from the tracks as supporters shouted “shame.” At least eight were arrested but police wouldn’t confirm the number to the Star.

Crystal Sinclair of the Idle No More protest movement told the Star she had come to the protest to support other Indigenous people across the country who are voicing their concerns about land ownership.

Wet'suwet'en solidarity protesters occupy the rail lines behind Lambton Arena in the west end of the city Tuesday evening as more opposition ramps up. The blockade disrupted GO transit during the evening commute.

“This is about making a statement. Indigenous sovereignty is not being respected,” she said as the crowd of protesters grew larger through the evening. “They have to start paying attention, get off our land because injustice to one is injustice to all.”

A few metres from the tracks, Olivia Coombe was wrapped in a blanket, sitting on a small carpet with food and water supplies. Two fires were fully alight to keep her warm.

“I’m going to stay here until they remove me or until we’re free,” she said.

Throughout the evening, dozens of protesters and their allies kept chanting slogans of solidarity and of denouncing police and RCMP.

Just outside the fences leading to the rail tracks, a standoff continued between a line of police officers and a chanting crowd.

Wesley Victor-Sterling said he’s been an Indigenous advocate starting with Occupy Toronto. For him, this is about leaving Indigenous land to Indigenous people.

“I just want to tend my garden, light up a fire and be left alone in peace,” he said.

The protests caused major headaches from commuters.

Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said there had been reports odisruptions at Kipling station on the Milton line, as well as at Guildwood on Lakeshore East.

Metrolinx tweeted at around 4:45 p.m. that the situation at Guildwood had been cleared and normal service was resuming, but customers could expect residual delays. At about 6:30 p.m., the first train to Milton finally departed Union after a two-hour delay but it was using a diversion.

“While we are beginning to recover service, with trains running on all GO lines, however we still expect delays and cancellations throughout the evening,” Metrolinx tweeted.

Protesters occupy the rail lines behind Lambton Arena in the west end of the city.

Aikins said Milton trains would use a diversion along CP-owned tracks to avoid the protests. The route will take between 20 and 30 minutes longer than normal. She said Metrolinx was monitoring whether the diversion would be required Wednesday should the disruptions persist.

“If we have to, we’ll use it in the morning,” she said.

According to Aikins, Metrolinx deployed all available officers to help with crowding at Union Station on Tuesday evening as the delays caused large crowds.

Some train trips on the Kitchener, Barrie, and Lakeshore West lines that weren’t directly affected by the protests had to be cancelled because it would have been unsafe to allow more people on the platforms at Union, Aikins said.

A protester is dragged through the mud at Lambton rail blockade. While the trains on the Milton line were the only ones that were cancelled, there were severe delays for all others with the Lakeshore West and Lakeshore East lines being the worst.

“We just couldn’t run as many trains as we normally do,” she said.

The protests on the Lakeshore West line appeared to have been cleared Tuesday evening, and Aikins said CN was examining the tracks near Hamilton to ensure the line was safe to operate regular service on.

The GO Transit rail network carries more than 215,000 people per day. The Milton line carries 15,300 riders daily.

Aikins earlier said the agency was doing its best to respond to reports of potential blockages.

GO is also warning of severe crowding at Union Station during rush hour Tuesday afternoon because of the Wet'suwet'en protests. Commuters were trying to figure out what platform their train, if it was still running, would be on.

“It’s a quickly evolving situation, and information is coming swiftly and in limited fashion, and we aren’t able to as quickly develop a recovery plan when there’s this much of our rail (network) impacted,” Aikins said.

GO warned of severe crowding at Union Station as a result. Commuters were trying to figure out what platform their train — if it was still running — would be leaving from.

While the trains on the Milton line were the only ones that were suspended, there were severe delays for all others with the Lakeshore West and Lakeshore East lines being the worst.

Frustrating matters was that attendants who were trying to help passengers didn’t have the latest accurate information. Commuters who spoke to the Star didn’t share frustrations with the protesters. Instead they focused their anger on Metrolinx employees who couldn’t help them.

GO train service has been suspended between Union and Pickering due to a "developing safety incident," Metrolinx officials said Tuesday afternoon.

Passengers were able to board on both sides of the car for some trains as officials tried to ease congestion on the platforms. Every time there was a boarding announcement, waves of passengers began moving to that platform.

Aikins called Tuesday’s disruption “unprecedented.” In 1987, a strike by CP and CN workers left 30,000 daily GO commuters scrambling to find a ride to work.

Aikins said the agency had been preparing for potential disruptions in the wake of protests across the country in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in B.C. who are opposing the construction of a natural gas pipeline through their land.

“We have been working with our safety partners for the last few weeks, and have stepped up our efforts over the last couple of days. We have an emergency preparedness plan that we have put in effect,” she said.

“The first priority we have is to make sure everybody stays safe, so everybody has been working round the clock, especially the last 48 hours.”

Earlier Tuesday, Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters forced GO Transit to cancel morning train service at its stations in Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Hamilton and West Harbour and instead run shuttle buses between the stations.

At the tracks behind Lambton Arena on Dundas Street West, just west of Jane St., protesters could be seen holding hands and dancing in a circle.

Supporters of Wet’suwet’en say they have blockaded trains east-west and north-south in and out of Toronto following the OPP raid on Tyendinaga Mohawk outside Belleville.

More than 220,000 people ride GO trains on an average weekday and more than 90 per cent of those commuters travel to Union Station.

The commuter service carries another 52,000 people on its buses.

It operates seven train lines across about 500 kilometres of track, the majority of which is owned by Metrolinx, the provincial agency that operates GO.

Key moments in the Coastal GasLink and Wet’suwet’en conflict

Coastal GasLink is building a 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to the coast, which will supply the $40-billion LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat. Hereditary clan chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en nation say the project has no authority without their consent and are attempting to block its progress.

April 5, 2010

Indigenous group led by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs set up a cabin on the planned route for the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The spot becomes a fixture of the group’s opposition to the pipeline being built through their territory. A bunkhouse was added a few years later.

Nov. 23, 2018

Coastal GasLink files for an injunction against the blockade, and Wet’suwet’en people camped at the location are served notice about the filing.

Dec. 14, 2018

Coastal GasLink is granted a temporary injunction against the blockade. Wet’suwet’en members and their allies camped at the blockade are given 72 hours to clear the area. Indigenous leaders and allies set up a second checkpoint further down the road to prevent the company coming into the area.

Jan. 7, 2019

RCMP officers move into Wet’suwet’en territory to enforce the injunction. Nation members and allies positioned at the checkpoint retreat to the more permanent blockade camp as 14 were arrested by heavily armed police.

Jan. 8, 2019

Rallies take place in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and other Canadian and American cities.

Dec. 31, 2019

B.C. Supreme Court grants an injunction against Wet’suwet’en blockades.

Jan. 5, 2020

Talks between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the B.C. government do not result in an agreement over the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Jan. 6, 2020

Coastal GasLink says it will start work on the pipeline as Wet’suwet’en territory hereditary leaders assert the company is trespassing on their land.

Jan. 8, 2020

Organizers at the Wet’suwet’en blockade send out a call for solidarity protests across the country. Protests at railways across Canada, ferry terminals, major roads, and government offices ensue.

Jan. 9, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refers to arrest of Wet’suwet’en protesters as “not an ideal situation” in interview with CBC.

Feb. 2020

RCMP begins to enforce the injunction against the blockades. Up to 28 people have been arrested as of Feb. 10.

Feb. 20, 2020

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the B.C. RCMP have agreed to move away from Wet’suwet’en territory to a nearby location.

Feb. 21, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls for the Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades to come down, calling the situation “unacceptable and untenable.”

Feb. 23, 2020

OPP and CN Rail reportedly give protesters until midnight Sunday to clear the blockade or face an investigation and possible criminal charges.

Feb. 24, 2020

Ontario Provincial Police moved Monday morning to clear a rail blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

Feb. 25, 2020

Wet’suwet’ten solidarity demonstrators disrupt GO train service in GTA and had rail blockades in Hamilton and near Caledonia.

Settler governments are breaking international law, not Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, say 200 lawyers, legal scholars

Eve Saint, a Wet'suwet'en land defender and daughter of hereditary Chief Woos, who was arrested by RCMP during the recent raids addresses the crowd at Queen’s Park on Saturday. As Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs visit blockades in Eastern Canada, thousands took to Toronto streets in solidarity.

As lawyers and legal academics living and working on this part of Turtle Island now called Canada, we write to demand an end to the ongoing violations of Indigenous nations’ internationally recognized right to free, prior, and informed consent — for example, with the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines routed through unceded Indigenous lands, including Wet’suwet’en lands.

Canadian law and legal institutions — from legislation like The Indian Act to court decisions legitimizing treaty violations with racist stereotypes — have long served as instruments of settler colonialism. And they continue to do so with the legal authorization of the violent dispossession, suppression, and criminalization of Indigenous land and water protectors.

“Think about everything that First Nations people have survived in this country: the taking of our land, the taking of our children, residential schools, the current criminal justice system,” as the late Mohawk legal scholar Patricia Monture-Angus wrote. “How was all of this delivered? The answer is simple: through the law.”

Through Canadian Eurocentric Law, that is. Clearly, law is not synonymous with justice.

While the Supreme Court has officially recognized that Canada was not in fact terra nullius (“nobody’s land”) before European colonization, Canadian courts and legal institutions continue to treat Indigenous territories as if they are so — enabling a wide scope of governmental and corporate infringement on unceded Indigenous lands, including Wet’suwet’en land, even in the face of sustained Indigenous resistance.

For example, recent research from the Yellowhead Institute at Ryerson University has found that injunctions are overwhelmingly ordered by Canadian courts in favour of development projects against Indigenous claims. While 76 per cent of injunctions filed by corporations against First Nations were granted, over 80 per cent of injunctions sought by First Nations against corporations and the government were denied.

This pattern is perpetuated with the repeated issuance of injunctions — enforced with violence and threat of lethal force by the RCMP — against the Wet’suwet’en working against the Coastal GasLink project, authorized without the consent of the hereditary chiefs vested with jurisdiction over the decision.

The right of free, prior, and informed consent enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) logically flows from the recognition that Indigenous governmental, legal, and political orders have existed on this land from time immemorial, long predating the arrival of European settlers.

Canadian settler governments have legally recognized the importance of abiding by UNDRIP and, in the case of British Columbia, sought to incorporate it into domestic provincial law through Bill 41.

And yet, courts continue to ignore UNDRIP, including in the most recent Federal Court of Appeal decision giving a green light to the Trans Mountain pipeline. And the federal government, having promised to implement UNDRIP in domestic law, meanwhile persists in transgressing its standards — consuming land and resources while promising to negotiate their more equitable distribution.

While Wet’suwet’en land and water protectors are being depicted as transgressors of the “rule of law,” they are in fact upholding Indigenous and international legal orders.

The tactics wielded against them violate not only international and Wet’suwet’en laws, but are also in tension with aspects of Canadian law, such as the B.C. legislation implementing UNDRIP, which prohibits forcible removal of Indigenous peoples from their lands.

It is important to understand that while the Wet’suwet’en defence of the land, and the B.C. and Canadian governments’ amnesia about their legal and moral obligations, are now drawing international attention, these patterns of government-sanctioned lawlessness are being committed all across Turtle Island. SOURCE

Could some trailers in northern B.C. hold the key to cooling the Wet’suwet’en crisis? Ottawa hopes so

Protesters gathered on a highway in Kanesatake Mohawk Territory, near Oka, Que. on Tuesday to demonstrate in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en Nation hereditary chiefs, who are attempting to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline on their traditional territory in British Columbia.

OTTAWA—Some trailers locked behind a fence on a remote British Columbia logging road may be the key to ending the dispute over a pipeline project that has spurred protests and closed rail lines across the country.

The federal government is hoping talks between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in B.C. and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs can cool down the crisis.

Key to that discussion are the trailers that house the RCMP’s satellite detachment Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C., which was shut down last Friday but remains in place under lock and key.

Chiefs opposing a natural gas pipeline at the heart of the nationwide dispute have called for the detachment to be dismantled, among other demands, and federal ministers are now pinning their hopes for a resolution on talks about its place on Wet’suwet’en territory.

On Tuesday, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said negotiations between the RCMP and the chiefs are focused on a “step-plan to de-escalation,” while Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said a day earlier that discussions had zeroed in on a “deconstruction schedule” for the detachment.

The hope is that if the Wet’suwet’en chiefs declare they are satisfied with the police withdrawal, the blockades and protests that have crippled rail traffic and shaken the Trudeau government’s reconciliation agenda will finally come down.

“Over the last few days there has been some back and forth that has been modestly positive,” Miller said after Tuesday’s federal cabinet meeting, referring to the status of the detachment at the heart of the dispute and how to “de-escalate to the satisfaction of the hereditary chiefs.

“There is a path toward resolving this in a peaceful way,” he said.

The Star was unable to reach Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs on Tuesday, but wing chief Dinize Ste ohn tsiy confirmed meetings were being held.

So far, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have refused an offer to sit down with federal and B.C. government ministers until two key demands are met: They have said they want the RCMP to dismantle the trailers and equipment set up at a outpost on the Morice West Forest Service Road, west of Houston, B.C., and to stop patrolling the area. They have also called on the company building the Coastal GasLink pipeline to halt its activity and pull out of Wet’suwet’en territory.

At this stage, it appears the status of the police detachment is the only thing up for negotiation.

Sgt. Janelle Shoihet confirmed there have been discussions about the police presence in Wet’suwet’en territory and the future of the detachment. The RCMP “temporarily closed” the detachment on Friday, leaving the buildings “locked and secured” behind a fence, but officers are still conducting patrols from a station in Houston to ensure the road “remains open and free of obstructions,” according to the court order obtained by Coastal GasLink, Shoihet said.

The RCMP decision to enforce that order this month, and to arrest 28 people in the area over several days, sparked solidarity demonstrations that have blocked rail traffic and major thoroughfares across Canada and plunged the federal government into a political crisis. SOURCE

Wet’suwet’en solidarity gains steam: What’s led to this ‘watershed moment’ in Indigenous resistance

Nikki Sanchez, a member of the Pipil Maya Nation who camped out in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline at the B.C. legislature in Victoria this week, says she has been involved in Indigenous grassroots solidarity movements since she was a child.

VANCOUVER—For Nikki Sanchez, camping at the ceremonial gates of British Columbia’s legislature this week in defence of land that an Indigenous community wants to shield from a resource project was nothing new.

Actually, it was more of a homecoming.

As a child, Sanchez camped with her parents at a Clayoquot Sound blockade — part of the 1993 movement to stop a logging project often described as Canada’s largest act of civil disobedience. It’s where she first recalled learning about land rights, injustice and fighting back.

“I’ve been involved in Indigenous grassroots solidarity movements since I was born,” said Sanchez, a Pipil Maya woman who has been active in opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in northern B.C.

“As an Indigenous person it’s almost impossible not to have to engage with resistance movements.”

Protesters march down Granville St. in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C.

Almost 30 years later, likely few Canadians spend much time thinking about Clayoquot Sound or the other massive Indigenous-led protests that led news cycles and affected Canada’s landscape around that time: The Oka crisis. Ipperwash. Gustafsen Lake.

But Indigenous people and activist allies haven’t forgotten these historic events and experts say they’ve led to an “accumulation of resistance” and an unprecedented show of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en.

Looking back at these moments in history, some degree of solidarity from the non-Indigenous Canadian public has always emerged, said Sean Carleton, historian and assistant professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.

But digital media has allowed the public to become extremely invested in what began as a local conflict for the Wet’suwet’en.

“I think that may be one of the reasons we’re seeing such a large uptake in Canadian solidarity,” Carleton said. “We might write about this in the future as a watershed moment.”

After spending the night occupying the Toronto office of MP Carolyn Bennett, demonstrators blocked the intersection of Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave. on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en opposition to a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.

There is a common thread that unites these historic events, according to Candis Callison, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and the Institute of Critical Indigenous Studies.

“One thing that ties them together is Indigenous people defending their land, their right to be consulted. Courts continually have affirmed Indigenous title and rights, but we’ve also had challenges to that along the way,” she said.

“At every turn, they’re still having to negotiate” when the state or corporations “move in and dispossess Indigenous people of land or make a decision on what is going to be built on it and Indigenous people have said, ‘No, you don’t have consent.’ ”

Recent poll numbers this week from the Angus Reid Institute showed that two out of five Canadians — or 39 per cent — support Wet’suwet’en protesters, while 51 per cent support the Coastal GasLink project.

Callison said she wonders how much attitudes are shaped by the fact that schools recently started teaching Canadian history in a way that includes Indigenous people. She also pointed to how mainstream media reports on these events.

“Media are not knowledgeable on relations between Indigenous people and Canada. There’s a complicity between media and the state.”

People in Ottawa demonstrate outside the prime minister’s office on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en opposition to a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia.

When she and a colleague did an analysis of media coverage of the Idle No More protests, Callison said they found that many conversations on Twitter, particularly from Indigenous experts, were not being reflected by mainstream outlets.

That said, there’s no question digital tools have helped to elevate voices that have previously been ignored.

This past week, people were able to watch a livestream of RCMP officers arresting unarmed matriarchs at a Wet’suwet’en blockade, which Carleton said may have been jarring for Canadians who see Mounties in a positive, nostalgic light.

“When you see police using that kind of force on unarmed people it’s hard to square away,” he said. “Those images challenge our mythology.”

Callison said that while historically there’s been tension between some environmental groups and Indigenous communities, there’s been a lot of work to address how Indigenous groups’ alliances have changed, adding the Idle No More protests “set a high bar” for how an Indigenous-led movement could bring many other groups on board.

Carleton also noted that recent climate strikes are evidence that young people are engaged and ready to protest.

“Our moment right now is very unique,” he said. “There’s a convergence of youth who are looking at the climate crisis, a lot of different groups that are supportive of reconciliation.”

What’s clear is that Indigenous-led resistance movements have been shaping Canada’s history for more than 100 years. Here’s how some of those historical movements played out:  MORE

What Wet’suet’en Want

Image result for What Wet'suet'en Want

I can’t speak for them,
but I think what they want
is to have the same opportunities as we do,
to be equal citizens,

We have made apologies,
recognizing the harm we have done
to Indigenous peoples by our coming.
But the apologies fell short.
They didn’t offer to right the damage our fathers did.
The apologies recognized the racism of the past,
not the racism of the present.

We see poor villages.
We do not see them as enclosures into which we herded people
some hundred years ago.
We see poverty and the effects of poverty,
not the generations of cultures disrespected,
ignored and attacked, economies destroyed.
We see addictions and violence but not their cause.
We do not see our violence, murdered women and girls, disappeared,
men and women jailed till our prisons overflow,
children taken from their struggling families.
We do not see people, shamed and hurt,
working to be healthy. And proud.

Indigenous peoples are land-based peoples
and we took their land,
treaty or no treaty.
We paid them nothing for it,
while we prospered from it.
This is our history.
We need a new history.
We need to give enough of the land back
for the Wet’suet’en and other Indigenous peoples
to rebuild their prosperity.
We have to share
so that our Indigenous citizens have enough land to live their culture
and to prosper as we have.
This is not a gift, simply a just return.
And as Indigenous peoples are rebuilding their communities and cultures,
we need to make enough payment
for them to build decent homes, with clean water,
to relearn their languages, taken from them,
to be their own judges, lawyers, police,
social workers, therapists, doctors, nurses, teachers,
foresters, fishers, growers, harvesters,
computer scientists, cab drivers, biologists, business people,
artists, singers, dancers, drummers and dreamers.
It will take generations to heal
from the damage we have done.

But we can start now. They have.
Ours is a good country,
gifted by each tide of immigrants
landing on our shores looking for something better.
When we pay back what we owe,
when we’ve built a foundation of equality
with the Indigenous peoples whose land we share,
we will have a great country
reconciled at last.
What future might we then make together?

Robert Hart, Terrace. BC