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Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters set up new Vancouver rail blockade, violating injunction

Protests in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs continue to pop up across the country
Demonstrators temporarily blocked a rail spur line in Vancouver on Sunday. But as Kristen Robinson reports, some are starting to question the protesters' motives.

Two days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said rail blockades across Canada need to come down, a group of protesters gathered for hours on another major train crossing in East Vancouver.

The demonstrators gathered at the CN Rail tracks near Clark Drive and Venables Street just before noon Sunday, violating an injunction the rail company was granted by the B.C. Supreme Court the last time its tracks were blocked earlier this month.

The protesters did not block vehicle traffic, standing to the side of Venables Street on the tracks at Glen Drive. Members of the group, which numbered around 20 at noon, held signs and cheered as vehicles drove by, some of them honking.

Protesters set up blockade on East Vancouver CN rail line
Protesters set up blockade on East Vancouver CN rail line

READ MORE: Eyes now on Canadian police after Trudeau demands transport blockades torn down

The blockade is the latest act of solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline project through their traditional lands in northern B.C.

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“There will be no black snake on our Yintah,” said one protester who identified herself as Wet’suwet’en, but did not give her name and covered her face with a bandana.

“Find another route. Sorry.”

Police said it is monitoring the protest and has informed them of the injunction blocking them from setting up on the rail tracks. According to police, the protesters moved to the side of the tracks.

Protesters in support of Wet’suwe’ten hereditary chiefs vow to maintain blockades ‘as long as it takes’
Protesters in support of Wet’suwe’ten hereditary chiefs vow to maintain blockades ‘as long as it takes’

In a statement, the group organized by Natalie Knight and others said it was not only protesting the actions of Coastal GasLink and RCMP, but also the various injunctions granted against the solidarity protests themselves.

“You cannot injunct justice,” Knight said. “The use of overbroad injunctions to criminalize Indigenous land defenders and our supporters reveals the colonial foundation of Canadian law.

“We will continue holding solidarity actions in the streets of Vancouver until the demands of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have been met.”

Around 4 p.m., police returned to the protest site and served the injunction against the demonstrators. The group said they were choosing to leave, with the promise to “come back another day.”

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READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters block CN rail lines in East Vancouver, Amtrak affected

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are demanding the RCMP and Coastal GasLink pull out of their traditional territory before they will agree to more fulsome discussions with the federal government.

The Vancouver blockade comes over a week after the same group blocked another East Vancouver rail crossing off Grandview Highway, where they stayed for hours before police arrived to enforce CN’s injunction.

Wet’suwe’ten hereditary chiefs supporters dig in
Wet’suwe’ten hereditary chiefs supporters dig in

The rail company’s court order covers its rail lines across southern B.C., echoing a similar injunction granted to Canadian Pacific Rail, who had its own lines blocked in Coquitlam this month.

Pre-emptive injunctions have been granted to both TransLink and BC Ferries to keep SkyTrain platforms and ferry terminals clear of protesters.

Rail and port blockades spread across Canada over two weeks ago after RCMP began arresting Wet’suwet’en members and supporters who were blocking access to Coastal GasLink workers on the Morice West Forest Service Road near Houston, B.C. Twenty-eight people were arrested over five days.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en protests: Violent ends to past confrontations haunt Trudeau’s government

While many of those blockades have since come down, the longest-standing barricade near Belleville, Ont., set up by members of the Mohawk First Nation is still showing no signs of being removed.

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On Friday, Trudeau said the barricades “need to come down now,” but said it was up to Indigenous leaders and the police to do so.

The prime minister pointed to the effects the blockades have had on Canada’s economy, with ports seeing backlogs and provinces warning of supply shortages with freight trains unable to move goods.

Trudeau: Blockades must now come down
Trudeau: Blockades must now come down

Over 1,000 workers have been laid off by Via Rail, who have been unable to operate commuter trains in a majority of Eastern Canada.

Mid-day Friday, B.C. RCMP pulled officers and operations from a small, remote detachment on Wet’suwet’en land that had been in place since January 2019, which has been at the centre of the Wet’suwet;en chiefs’ complaints against the police force.

Patrols are continuing regularly on the forest service road, however, which the chiefs say must end along with work on the pipeline.

READ MORE: RCMP ‘temporarily’ close office on Wet’suwet’en land, chief says more talks next week

Twenty elected First Nations band councils along the 670-kilometre pipeline route, including the Wet’suwet’en, have signed agreements with Coastal GasLink and stand to benefit from the $6.6-billion project, which will deliver natural gas from Dawson Creek to a LNG export facility in Kitimat, B.C.

But the hereditary chiefs say they have rights and title over their traditional lands and refuse to give consent to the pipeline, arguing the band councils only have jurisdiction over their reserves under the Indian Act.

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