Wet'suwet'en supporters picket outside of B.C. government buildings in Victoria
VANCOUVER -- Wet'suwet'en supporters began picketing outside multiple government buildings in Victoria Friday morning, marking another day of action in B.C.'s capital.
Victoria police said "protesters (had) blockaded several government buildings" before 8 a.m. Police said there were no known traffic impacts and described the events as "peaceful."
While an online invitation described the protest as a "shutdown of the B.C. government," organizers told CTV News they consider the demonstrations to be picket lines, rather than blockades. Groups didn't appear to be trying to get into the government buildings or block anyone from getting in, but instead they were standing on the sidewalks outside with signs.
"This is a continued action that is mostly focusing on education of the ministry workers that might choose to come to work and might choose to join our picket line. It's also just education with the public," said Nat Karpovskaia, a media liaison attending the demonstration.
She described the action as "very peaceful."
"We are not blocking anyone from getting in and out," she said. "Absolutely not."
A document shared on social media earlier this week suggests more than 350 people signed up to gather at dozens of different ministry offices in Victoria, including the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Health.
"We call on settlers to help take responsibility for the colonial institutions causing violence against Wet'suwet'en land and people by picketing B.C. government buildings," says a Facebook invitation to the demonstration.
Earlier this week, an email was sent out to all B.C. government employees alerting them to the pending protests and ensuring them the province will be "prepared for any eventuality."
Don Wright, deputy minister to the premier, said Friday that he was pleased with how the public service responded to the demonstrations, adding that 6,500 people accessed the government's remote server to do their work today, which was more than double the usual number.
"I am proud of how the public service collectively responded to the anticipated effort to shut down government operations in a thoughtful, respectful manner that allowed protestors to make their points peacefully while maintaining the continuity of services to British Columbians," Wright said in a statement.
"I am most pleased that our top priority – the safety and wellbeing of our employees – was ensured."
Roads, bridges, rail service impacted
On Tuesday dozens of demonstrators blocked access to the B.C. legislature ahead of the throne speech. On Thursday, the Speaker of the legislature won a sweeping injunction preventing anyone from blocking doorways or driveways at the B.C. legislature.
The injunction restricts activists from obstructing, intimidating or interfering with legislative staff, security or government workers on the legislature grounds. Other government buildings are not included in the injunction, however.
Demonstrators say they're standing in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in northern B.C.
In 2018, Premier John Horgan announced support for a liquefied natural gas plant in Kitimat. The 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline would transport the natural gas for export.
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.
Protests have been ongoing in Victoria and in Metro Vancouver for several days, causing significant traffic disruptions.
A blockade on the Pitt River Rail Bridge halted West Coast Express service on the mainland, while dozens of people blocked occupied David Eby's Vancouver office Thursday.
Access to the Granville Street Bridge was blocked on Wednesday, closing the crossing to traffic for hours. Earlier in the week, the protests led to overnight road closures at Broadway and Cambie Street and blockades outside the Port of Vancouver and Deltaport.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Andrew Weichel and Bhinder Sajan