The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) have condemned the nation-wide protests in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs.
The MMF said late Friday they are not in agreement with the ongoing rail blockades and protests that oppose a proposed pipeline project in northern British Columbia on Wet’suwet’en territory that have gripped the country and disrupted supply chains for more than two weeks.
Some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the pipeline have encamped on their traditional territory to prevent the pipeline’s construction — the B.C. government called in the RCMP to clear the land, spurring solidarity protests opposing the RCMP’s action and supporting Indigenous land rights nationwide. The company building the pipeline, Coastal GasLink, has signed agreements with elected Indigenous councils.
MMF President David Chartrand issued a statement Feb. 21 outlining his organization’s opposition to the protests.
“Our Metis government will not endorse or support the protesters that are now on the verge of harming many innocent people who are not choosing sides on the pipeline issue,” Chartrand wrote in his statement.
Chartrand wrote that he and the federation cannot support the protesters, saying an internal governance issue between the elected band council and the hereditary chiefs has created a chain reaction of disruption across the country that threatens to affect the quality of life of Canadians.
“These protesters have not received the sanction of the democratically elected Indigenous governments to protest. These actions and the lack of dialogue arises from not respecting the roles and responsibilities of elected leaders,” Chartrand wrote.
“Now is the time to ask ourselves: when will this stop? Will it be if a life is lost or illness worsened because of these protests and barricades? This will be on protesters’ shoulders to bear,” his statement said.
In contrast, the Manitoba Southern Chiefs Organization came out in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs Friday morning in a wide-ranging press conference about Indigenous rights and economies.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Trudeau, who suggested patience and conversation up until Friday, changed his tone and demanded the railway barricades be taken down.