The grounds and steps of the B.C. Legislature building began to empty Thursday as Indigenous youth and supporters who occupied the area for the past 11 days packed up.
This is the second time the group occupied the space in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in opposition of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
On Thursday afternoon, supporters were seen cleaning up the area on and around the steps while several red dresses hung on wooden stakes that were in the lawn.
Kati George-Jim, one of the Indigenous youth group members, said they held a closing ceremony on the lawn and that a ceremony was also held in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit folks. A pyre was constructed and the red dresses in the area were there for the ceremony as well.
“It is important to show the interconnected problems and systemic issues with having man camps and extractive resource industries on Indigenous territories where we know there is an increased amount of domestic violence and targeted racial violence against our people and our families,” George-Jim said. “It’s not a single issue, it’s not just one part of the problem here we’re trying to address.”
George-Jim said the closing ceremony was to thank and honour supporters, community members, families and relations who were at the B.C. Legislature building over the past 11 days and the six days they were there earlier. She said they would now like to carry themselves forward, abide by Indigenous laws and protocols and go back to their communities for consultation, engagement, reflection and dialogue.
“We’ve reclaimed this as a different type of ceremonial space,” George-Jim said. “This entrance and this land will remember what has happened here today and on the days previous.”
Folks have been asked to gather their belongings and pack up.
On Wednesday night, five members of the group occupying the B.C. Legislature building were arrested and removed from the building following a meeting with Scott Fraser, minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation. In a series of social media posts, members of ‘Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en’ said seven of its members were invited to speak with Fraser but that “discussions broke down.”
The office for the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation said the group was invited in on the condition they would leave following the meeting, but that they “reneged on their agreement” after one and a half hours of discussion.
George-Jim said hundreds of people had gathered around the B.C. Legislature building during the incident.
“There were many songs and there were communities of all backgrounds that came together to make sure the people inside knew they were supported,” George-Jim said.
The Victoria Police Department said five people were arrested for mischief, there were no injuries and that “officers used the minimum amount of force needed to safely affect the arrests.”
The five arrested were transported to cells for processing and released on conditions they don’t return to the legislature grounds, according to VicPD.