Red was the theme of a rally that took over the BC Legislature building Monday afternoon.
Red dresses were strewn across the lawn and lamps of the provincial landmark – a symbol of Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls – and red dye was poured into the fountain as a visual marker of “blood on the colonial government’s hands.”
It was the fifth day of a sit-in on the Legislature’s front steps, and a coalition of Indigenous youth, demonstrators and allies rallied again in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing Coastal GasLink through their community’s 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory. The occupying group of about 30 Indigenous youth say they won’t leave their post until RCMP leave Wet’suwet’en territory.
Spokesperson Nikki Sanchez said the group is both vigilant and anxious as news of more than one dozen arrests come down from the northern community, where RCMP enforced an injunction on the protest camp of hereditary chiefs and supporters blocking the natural gas project from their traditional territory – a stance in stark contrast to the five Wet’suwet’en band councils supporting the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline.
The Hereditary chiefs and their supporters say the community’s elected officials only have authority over reserve lands, since their power was created through the Indian Act.
The Victoria group has been occupying the steps of the Legislature for nearly 100 hours in support of the hereditary Wet’suwet’en leaders.
“Over ten different nations of youth are sitting together and people are sharing their songs and sharing their teachings and sharing their medicines. And that is an incredibly beautiful thing,”she said. “But it’s really a combination of the sadness in our hearts and the heartbreak we feel that we have to actually, in 2020 – in an era of so-called reconciliation – watch this play out in the same way that Oka played out, in the same way that Gustafsen Lake played out….These people on their own territory, on their sovereign lands are being treated as enemies of the state.”
A portion of the group at the Legislature building moved downtown and blocked both the Johnson Street Bridge and Point Ellice Bridge Monday evening. Those groups were separate from those occupying the BC Legislature building, who say the bridge-blocking demonstrators were mainly non-Indigenous grassroots movements in support of the same cause.
The Indigenous group has plans to rally again Tuesday during the 2020 speech from the throne at the BC Legislature building. The Tuesday rally is expected to include words from Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and Don Tom, UBCIC vice president.
Premier John Horgan has said the pipeline – part of a $40-billion LNG Canada export terminal project – offers vital economic and social support to northern B.C. The pipeline has received approval from 20 elected First Nations councils along its proposed route.
Hundreds are gathering at the steps of the @BCLegislature this afternoon in solidarity with Indigenous youth and land defenders. Some of the people gathered on the steps have been there for nearly five days. The group has rallied ahead of tomorrow’s Throne speech. #yyj pic.twitter.com/VDe0k8FUIW— Nina Grossman (@NinaGrossman) February 10, 2020
With files from Nicole Crescenzi, Ashley Wadhwani and the Canadian Press.
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