VANCOUVER -- A group of Indigenous land defenders have taken over the intersection of East Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver, blocking one of the access routes to the Port of Vancouver. 

About 75 people first gathered at Grandview Park as part of a national week of action promoted by Indigenous leaders hoping to call attention to a number of issues including climate change and systemic racism.

“This is what we have to do. We can’t sit back anymore and watch our Indigenous people being treated the way they’re being treated from coast to coast,” said Will George, of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “We’re answering that call from our relatives across this nation.”

The group then marched to the intersection where it formed a circle, erected tents and built a fire.

Signs carried by people in the crowd called for Canada to honour the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, to cancel the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, and to engage in meaningful reconciliation for historic and recent injustices committed by Canada.

“We need Canada to recognize they’re not the boss here, they’re not the leader, these are unceded lands,” said Aubrey Siegl, a Musqueam woman. “That is a legal reality. Unceded means it was never sold, it was never given away, and it was never vacant.”

Leaders for the group say there is no timeline for how long they plan to hold the intersection.

Some in the crowd could be heard talking about a plan to stay for several days.

Vancouver police are monitoring the situation and officers have set up at surrounding intersections to direct traffic away from the protest.

Authorized vehicles can still access the Port of Vancouver waterfront via Commissioner Street.