Hundreds march through downtown Vancouver after pipeline protesters arrested
Published Tuesday, January 8, 2019 8:12AM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 8, 2019 6:54PM PST
Police in Vancouver shut down roads as a group of protesters marched from the provincial courthouse to Victory Square Tuesday in a show of solidarity with LNG opponents in northern B.C.
Images from downtown Vancouver showed a steadily growing crowd at Smithe and Hornby streets.
Shortly before noon, nearly 300 people began moving north down Hornby a day after Mounties arrested 14 people at a blockade southwest of Houston, B.C., where members of the Gidimt'en clan of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation had set up a camp to control access to TransCanada's planned Coastal GasLink pipeline.
"We love you. We're here. We're committed to this because your fight is our fight," one Vancouver protester said.
Drumming and chanting could be heard in social media posts form the scene. Demonstrators could be seen carrying signs with messages on them like "All nations unite with Wet'suwet'en" and "We stand with Unist'ot'en."
"My spirit's with them--my soul, my heart," said another protester.
The march in Vancouver is part of a larger international day of action organized in support of those at the Unist'ot'en camp. Dozens of rallies were planned across Canada and even as far away as Europe.
Another gathering organized by a group called "Rise and Resist" also took place in from the of the B.C. legislature in Victoria, with demonstrators chanting "Shame on Canada."
Protesters also gathered at Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould's Vancouver office.
In Ottawa, dozens of protesters drummed and chanted outside a Sussex Drive office, delaying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from giving a speech to a forum that brought together federal officials and representatives from self-governing First Nations.
The demonstrators were joined on their march through the capital's downtown core by Quebec MP Romeo Saganash, who told The Canadian Press he had not heard back from the B.C. and federal Indigenous Affairs ministers he had reached out to prior to the arrests in Houston.
Similar protests were held across Canada, including in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Calgary.
Coastal GasLink obtained an injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court ordering the removal of all obstruction as work begins on the 670-kilometre, $6.20-billion pipeline that would connect to LNG Canada's natural gas operation in Kitimat.
The RCMP moved in to enforce that injunction Monday morning. Despite what appeared to a be a subdued start to their interaction with demonstrators, the force said in a statement that night that more than a dozen people had been taken into custody, adding that officers felt confident the standoff could not be resolved without their involvement.
The protest camp has been set up on Wet'suwet'en First Nation territory near Smithers for years. Though TransCanada has stated it has signed agreements with all elected First Nations along the pipeline route, some hereditary chiefs still oppose the project.
The arrests drew strong criticism from leaders of the First Nation and protest camp representatives as well as social media users from across Canada and beyond.
On Tuesday, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations condemned the RCMP's actions as a violation of the Wet'suwet'en people's rights.
"If this was really about the 'rule of law' then governments would be honouring the rights and title of First Nations in their traditional territories, which are recognized by Canada's own courts," Perry Bellegarde said in a statement.
"The AFN supports the governance and decision-making process of the Wet'suwet'en leaders. Canada and B.C. should do the same. There is no reconciliation in the actions that unfolded yesterday."
In a statement, NDP MP Nathan Cullen—whose riding includes the Houston area—expressed his support for the nation's hereditary leadership.
"I have been in contact with TransCanada, the B.C. and Canadian government as well as the RCMP to ask that all sides continue dialogue," he wrote. "I am calling on the federal government to engage with the Wet'suwet'en and demonstrate Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to real and meaningful reconciliation."
"What happened today is that our trespass laws were broken, but according to Canadian law, which is being steered by industry, they say that these people are now criminals," said Wet'suwet'en Chief Namoks streamed on Facebook Live.
"If this is Canada's version of reconciliation, how can we have a future together?" he told CTV the following day.
After the arrests, Mounties reiterated that their focus remains on the safety of all those involved in the situation, but said "the RCMP is given discretion to decide how and when to enforce the order."
Meanwhile, organizers of Tuesday's rallies say this is just the beginning, and that more protests are planned.
Some of those who took to the streets of Vancouver say they're planning on travelling to Houston to join the blockade.
"We're there with you. We're proud of what you guys are doing. Stay strong," one man said.
With files from CTV's Melanie Nagy, Shannon Paterson and The Canadian Press
People are now starting to march through Vancouver streets . https://t.co/9x6GnmxlQ7— Melanie Nagy (@MelanieNagyCTV) January 8, 2019
The crowd hear growing. Close to 200 people now. Road now closed and police preparing to clear roads so people can march to Victory Square in #Vancouver . #Wetsuweten #UnistotenCamp #ctvnews #ctvnational pic.twitter.com/DQs0jFcHhd— Melanie Nagy (@MelanieNagyCTV) January 8, 2019
Large crowd of demonstrators chanting and drumming at Victory Square as part of nation-wide day of protest against arrests at pipeline blockade near Houston pic.twitter.com/vkM8cF57Em— Shannon Paterson (@ctv_shannon) January 8, 2019