Security heightened at B.C. legislature amid pipeline protests
VICTORIA, B.C. -- There was heightened security at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria Monday, as protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en continue on the front steps.
Victoria police officers were spotted at the legislature and extra staff were seen at entrances and exits as the protests, which began Thursday, continued. Public access to the building was limited.
A group of Indigenous youth, as well as other supporters, say they are standing with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory. The group says it takes issue with RCMP arrests on traditional land.
“It does not necessary have to do with a pipeline, this is the infringement of Indigenous law,” explained Kolin Sutherland-Wilson who identified as an Indigenous youth from the Gitxsan nation.
The group is calling for an end to arrests by the RCMP and said they hope to send a message to the premier to make that happen.
At an unrelated press conference in New Westminster Monday, Premier John Horgan said he was disappointed dialogue between the government and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs broke down.
“Governments do not direct the courts nor do we direct the RCMP, an injunction was sought by the company, it was granted by the courts, and the RCMP are enforcing that order,” he said.
Horgan added reconciliation work with Indigenous leaders is happening on many fronts, and conceded it would take time and hard work to happen.
The spring legislative session kicks off on Tuesday with a throne speech which outlines the government's priorities. It is typically accompanied by pomp and circumstance, including an honour guard, gun salute and the lieutenant-governor entering the building via a red carpet on the same steps occupied by the youth.
As of Monday afternoon, it was unclear how the ongoing protest will change Tuesday's events, but the group says it will be present on the steps. There are several ways in and out of the building, so Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin has other options for getting inside.
Coastal GasLink is building a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C. that would then be used for a liquefied natural gas export facility. After those opposed to the pipeline blocked access to a construction site, the company asked the courts for an order to remove them, and in late December got an injunction.
Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs say they don't support the project, and point out it runs through lands they have never given up title to. Twenty First Nations, included the elected Wet'suwet'en council have signed benefit agreements with the company.
The RCMP has said it is obliged to execute the Supreme Court order, and vowed to do so with as little force as possible. Arrests began near Houston last week. Several groups have criticized the RCMP's actions as militarized.