Dozens of young Indigenous peoples lined the stairs of the legislature Wednesday morning ahead of a press conference — just steps from where they slept the previous three days.
For them, being there — standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs — is not an option.
Citing 150 years of oppression through the Indian Act and residential schools, the Indigenous youth aim to put a stop to the Coastal GasLink pipeline and say that oppression continues. Saul Brown, one of the front-men of the Victoria movement, told the crowd of hundreds gathered at the base of the steps, that he felt he needed to take a step back for Wednesday’s press conference after getting death threats.
“When the media paints us as criminals, it puts us in danger. It incites hatred. It gives excuses to bigots to hate and we know there are people out there who do not wish us well as Indigenous peoples,” he said.
The press conference comes after 14 people were arrested, including three Gitxsan hereditary chiefs, as police enforced injunctions across the province late Monday and Tuesday.
“This isn’t just about a pipeline, this is about our survival and what has been said before is that what we’re fighting for here is so the next generation doesn’t have to be sitting here on cement steps night after night to get these politicians to listen to us,” said Gina Mowat.
Nationwide blockades and demonstrations have been popping up for weeks across the country and the group Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en has declared reconciliation dead.
“We’re starting to realize that reconciliation may not have existed in the first place, that reconciliation was merely empty rhetoric in order to justify the ongoing colonization of our territories,” said Kolin Wilson-Sutherland. “Reconciliation never had anything to do with Indigenous peoples, we were simply an inconvenience to the ongoing exploitation of our territories.”
|Ta’Kaiya Blaney addresses the crowd in front of the B.C. Legislature. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Ta’Kaiya Blaney said they will continue to occupy ministry offices, rail lines and legislative and parliamentary precincts to hold all levels of government responsible for the “perpetuation of Canada’s genocidal legacy.”
The current occupation was organized jointly by groups including Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en, Climate Justice Victoria, Divest UVic, Rise and Resist, the University of Victoria Sustainability Project and the Balmoral Tiny House Warriors Build.
Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en has been the driving force behind a number of solidarity movements, including an 18-hour sit-in at the at the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and the first occupation of the legislature building’s front steps earlier this month.
— With files from Nina Grossman and Shalu Mehta