If you live in Greater Victoria, it’s been pretty hard to miss the protests of the natural gas pipeline and the disruption it has caused on daily life around the city.
Protesters have been camped out on the steps of the B.C. Legislature since Feb. 6, occasionally expanding their action to block traffic on nearby roads and bridges, with traffic being brought to a halt on both the Johnson and Point Ellice bridges Monday night. The sit-in at the Legislature, complete with campfire, also prevented the normal pomp and ceremony associated with the speech from the throne Tuesday afternoon.
The protesters are attempting to drum up support for the blockades set up along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route near Smithers, by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters. The pipeline is part of a $40 billion LNG Canada export terminal project that Premier John Horgan says will bring vital economic support to northern B.C. The project has received approval from both the federal and provincial governments, as well as all 20 elected Indigenous councils along the route, including the Wet’suwet’en.
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. That argument may have gained some traction with the generally left-leaning population of the capital region, had they not seen their own daily lives disrupted by a dispute they had no role in. It, no doubt, is a feeling shared by those Island residents who had to endure sailing waits caused by many of the same protesters who blocked entrance to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal just a few weeks ago.
Victoria residents aren’t alone in feeling the wrath of the so-called land defenders, with similar protests taking place in Vancouver, including at the port facility, and across the country.
The right to peaceful protest is one of the most sacred tenets of a democratic nation. But when those protests create needless hardship on ordinary citizens, they become counter-productive and undermine the very cause they are attempting to promote.