6 demonstrators supporting Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs arrested outside Vancouver port
VANCOUVER -- Police have moved in to arrest individuals blocking an intersection outside the Port of Vancouver.
The demonstrators say they're supporting Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, and had blocked the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive since Monday afternoon.
At about 12:30 p.m., Vancouver police began reading the injunction to the demonstrators over a loud speaker. A couple dozen officers were on scene and while most of the demonstrators moved to the sidewalk, police began arresting individuals still in the intersection at about 1 p.m. Over the next hour, six people were arrested, including Amber Statters from Vancouver.
"Why did you choose arrest instead of leaving when you were given warning?" CTV News asked as Statters was taken into custody.
"Other individuals across Canada have stood their ground," Statters replied. "I wanted to stand with them and show my support."
The blockade is the latest action in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose Coastal GasLink's pipeline project in northern B.C.
"I think it’s heroic," said Shelley Sparrow, a member of the Musqueam Nation who joined the protest, but wasn’t one of the six arrested. "(Statters) is not even Indigenous and she’s going so far to support us."
It’s not the first time the port has been blocked. On Feb. 9, demonstrators stayed the night and eventually 43 people were arrested.
At the time of that blockade, the Vancouver Police Department said officers were enforcing a court order to clear three entry points at the Port of Vancouver. All 43 people were released with conditions to abide by the injunction, according to police.
It's unclear if any of the six individuals arrested Tuesday afternoon were also arrested two weeks earlier.
"The disruptions to port operations over the past few weeks have had a significant impact on Canadians across the country, who rely on the businesses that import and export goods through the port for employment and for the products that support each of us every day," the port said in a statement Monday.
"While we respect the right to a peaceful protest, the port authority has a federal responsibility to ensure the safe and efficient movement of Canada’s trade through the port."
Actions in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs have been ongoing across the country for weeks. Demonstrators say they oppose the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is being built to transport natural gas from Kitimat.
"Is there room for compromise?" CTV asked Shelley Sparrow. "I’m not entirely sure," she said, before adding, "It’s important to stand for what you believe in, for what’s right."
Statters echoed that, saying Canadian leaders need to "start listening to the Indigenous peoples of Canada."
But the project has highlighted a larger debate on the amount of power hereditary chiefs should hold under Canadian law. While the Indian Act established band councils, hereditary chiefs are part of a traditional form of Indigenous government and Canadian courts have struggled with how to recognize their leadership.
Right now, the Coastal GasLink pipeline has support from 20 elected band councils along the route. However, five Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs are opposed to the project and say they have authority over 22,000 square kilometres of traditional territory that the pipeline would cross.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's David Molko, Alissa Thibault and Carly Yoshida-Butryn