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Indigenous youth occupy B.C. legislature steps in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Click to play video 'Rallies and protests held around B.C. in support of Wet’suwet’en blockade' Rallies and protests held around B.C. in support of Wet’suwet’en blockade
The blockade of an access road for the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C. is inspiring a string of rallies and protests of solidarity around the province. Brad MacLeod reports. – Feb 7, 2020

As police move in to clear a natural gas pipeline blockade in Northern British Columbia, supporters were rallying in the province’s capital.

A group describing itself as Indigenous youth acting in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs has been occupying the front steps of the B.C. legislature since Thursday.

Click to play video 'Protesters prepare for more arrests at Coastal GasLink blockade' Protesters prepare for more arrests at Coastal GasLink blockade
Protesters prepare for more arrests at Coastal GasLink blockade – Feb 7, 2020

“What’s going on in Wet’suwet’en territory is a national disgrace,” said Shaylynn Sampson, a University of Victoria student who hails from an area near Hazelton, B.C.

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“My ancestors have been doing this for hundreds for years, so I’m just here with them.”

READ MORE: ‘Bring it on’: B.C. pipeline opponents defiant as RCMP arrest 4 on 2nd day of enforcement

Sampson and dozens of other supporters say they want provincial leaders to hold new meetings with hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and are calling for the RCMP and the company to withdraw from the area.

“They’re facing an RCMP raid,” said Morgan Mowatt, a Gitxsan First Nation member and PhD student at UVic.

Mowatt said the group was gathering to show support for the Wet’suwet’en, but also out of concern for Indigenous rights everywhere in Canada.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en vow to keep fighting after RCMP make arrests at pipeline blockade camp

“It’s because what happens in Wet’suwet’en territory sets a precedent for the rest of us,” she said.

“As much as they’re our family and friends, it also brings risks to our own nations and families.”

Earlier in the day, another group of pipeline opponents took to the streets of Victoria, disrupting traffic and carrying a large banner reading “No Consent No Pipeline.”

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Click to play video 'Police arrest northern pipeline protestors' Police arrest northern pipeline protestors
Police arrest northern pipeline protestors – Feb 6, 2020

In Vancouver, pipeline opponents blocked the intersection of Clark Drive and Hastings Street outside the entrance to the Port of Vancouver Friday, repeating actions taken on Thursday.

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Protesters also blocked a second port ramp at Powell Street and Heatley Avenue, as well as port access at Commissioner and McGill streets.

The protesters dispersed from all three entrances just after 7 p.m. Police did not report any arrests.

Supporters also blocked Highway 16 near Hazelton.

Further east, supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs staged protests in Winnipeg and Ottawa.

READ MORE: RCMP move in to clear northern B.C. gas pipeline blockade, 6 arrests made

Another action caused train traffic in southern Ontario to grind to a halt when protesters parked vehicles near the tracks in Belleville, Ont.

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The protests follow a youth-led blockade of the Swartz Bay ferry terminal and occupations of two ministers offices in opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink is intended to carry natural gas from northeastern B.C. to a massive new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export facility near Kitimat.

Twenty elected Indigenous councils along the route have signed agreements with the company, but opponents say only the hereditary chiefs have authority over unceded traditional territory.