More than 20 Indigenous youth are blocking the entrance to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources on Blanshard Street to deliver a message to the Minister Michelle Mungall and Premier John Horgan.
Protesters have been on site since around noon and according to Nigel Robinson, they’re planning on occupying the building until “all [their] demands are met.”
Earlier on Tuesday, the protesters delivered a letter to Mungall that stated Indigenous youth were not only inheriting a climate crisis “driven by fossil fuel projects like [Coastal GasLink] CGL, but Canada’s legacy of colonization, genocide and gendered violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.” In other words, they are supporting Wet’suwet’en sovereignty and opposing RCMP actions.
“Canada’s siege and invasion of those territories that have not given consent for Coastal GasLinks operation. It’s unconstitutional, it is illegal, it is immoral and it is shameful. Canada can not continue to uphold the status quo of indigenous genocide when moving forward with natural resource projects that impact Indigenous youth first and foremost,” said Ta’Kiya Blaney, while seated in the middle of the group.
Robinson told Black Press Media that protesters were being denied food by police who they claimed would not allow home-made burritos to be brought inside.
In response to those claims, VicPD spokesperson Bowen Osoko said officers had in fact facilitated access to food and water and continued to work with those onsite “both from protest groups as well as onsite staff to support a peaceful resolution.”
|Ta’Kiya Blaney was one of the protesters at the demonstration on Tuesday, she wants to see the demands of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs upheld, observed and respected. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)|
Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast. The company has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along its path, but the hereditary clan chiefs who are leaders under the traditional form of governance say the project has no authority without their consent.
Last year, the conflict inspired rallies across the country when RCMP enforced an injunction and arrested 14 supporters of the hereditary chiefs who blocked access to a logging road leading to the work site on Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.
The B.C. Supreme Court expanded the injunction Dec. 31 and the hereditary clan chiefs responded with an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink, leading to a new standoff.
|A group of about 20 protesters blocked the entrance to the Minsitry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources building in Victoria on Tuesday in a show of solidarity for the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)|
“The RCMP and CGL] are violating Wet’suwet’en law, they’re not speaking … with the hereditary chiefs, when that is the conversation that needed to happen years ago,” said Kolin Sutherland-Wilson. “And yet, they think they can bulldoze through the territory, through the rights of the Wet’suwet’en people in order to enforce a project that they do not consent to.”
The letter includes two demands made by protesters. The first is that the demands of the Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation be upheld, observed and respected by the federal and provincial governments. Secondly, they ask an appointment be made by Premier Horgan to meet with the hereditary chiefs.
“B.C. conducted extensive consultations with Indigenous Nations and has also signed agreements with the vast majority of Indigenous communities along the route,” reads a statement provided by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
In addition, the statement highlights the fact that Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, will be traveling to Smithers on Wednesday to meet with the Hereditary Chiefs, as proposed by the Premier.
“Separately, the government has been engaged in the current discussions with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on reconciliation since early 2019. It’s important to note that these talks are not related to any specific project but are focused on building our relationship and meaningfully advancing reconciliation,” the statement continues.
HAPPENING NOW: Indigenous protesters are blocking the entrance to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources to show their solidarity to the Wet’suwet’en Nation. @VictoriaNews @OakBayNews @saanichnews @GoldstreamNews pic.twitter.com/GokMBNJgTJ— kendra crighton (@kendracrighton) January 21, 2020
Just over 20 days into the new year and more than 45 international actions have taken place in support of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. On Monday protesters blocked the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal in a show of solidarity, with a small portion of them in attendance at Tuesday’s demonstration.
According to Blaney, the demonstrations are independent with no direct or indirect contact with the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
“This is solidarity, we act as our own people,” she said.
— With files from The Canadian Press