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Students stage walkout in support of Wet'suwet'en Nation
VANCOUVER -- Hundreds of high school and university students in Vancouver staged a walkout from classes on Monday morning to show support for the Wet'suwet'en Nation.
The organizers estimate about 600 people participated in the walkout to show their support for the hereditary chiefs who oppose Coastal GasLink's 670-kilometre pipeline project being built from B.C.'s northeast to Kitimat.
"I think it's really important for all of Canada right now and everybody who can find out about this to support the Wet'suwet'en people in their fight to keep their land sacred and keep it the way it's supposed to be," said rally attendee Savanna Todd. "This pipeline is really going to hurt those people and it's going to hurt the environment, and it's going to hurt their way of life. So I think all of us need to learn about this."
The protesters gathered at Vancouver City Hall for several speeches and then marched to B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman's office on West Broadway. The group also listed several demands in a statement, which include the province suspending all of the permits for the pipeline project, and that the RCMP and other security services be withdrawn from the Wet'suwet'en lands.
"It has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with water. It has everything to do with protecting our food system so that we can survive. And so that everybody can survive," said Jo Andrew of the Wet'suwet'en Nation. "It's so disappointing that our communities and families are being pressured into these mining jobs and into these man camps and into this industry that's just not aligned with our culture and our beliefs. And it's causing a lot of division."
Coastal GasLink signed agreements with 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline's path, but the hereditary chiefs remain opposed to the pipeline and maintain that the project does not have the right to move forward without their approval.
A B.C. Supreme Court injunction that was expanded on Dec. 31 prevents Wet'suwet'en members and their supporters from blocking access to the worksite.
David Pfeiffer, the president of Coastal GasLink, said in a teleconference on Monday that the company has continued to make efforts to engage with the hereditary chiefs in order to find a peaceful resolution to the blockade. Pfeiffer said he has sent several letters requesting to meet with the hereditary chiefs to try to find a way to avoid enforcement of the injunction.
"We're hopeful this week we will have an opportunity to meet with the office of the Wet'suwet'en and the hereditary chiefs. We continue to reach out and we're hopeful we can sit down and work through the issues," he said. Pfeiffer said that the project's schedule has not been significantly impacted by the blockade at this point but that "time is running short."
Premier John Horgan announced on Monday that former NDP MP Nathan Cullen has been appointed as a provincial liaison with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in the ongoing dispute over the LNG pipeline.
Cullen used to represent the riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley, which includes the Wet'suwet'en territory. He chose not to run again in last October's federal election.