About 100 people occupied a key intersection in Vancouver’s East Side Monday afternoon, renewing a blockade to one of the Port of Vancouver’s main entrances.
At the same time, Indigenous youth in Victoria locked themselves to the gates of the B.C. legislature, but appeared not to violate an injunction there.
Demonstrators in Vancouver said they were acting in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their battle over a natural gas pipeline and the Tyendinaga Mohawk people who were arrested earlier Monday at a rail blockade in Ontario.
“We’re here today to express our outrage at that raid an the lack of respect that the government and the RCMP are giving to these Indigenous nations and their sovereignty,” organizer Natalie Knight told Global News.
Knight acknowledged that the protesters were aware they were violating a court injunction to keep the port access clear.
“Depending on the situation, if we feel like it is important to stand our ground we will do so. If we feel it is more strategic to come back another day then we will do that.”
“We are standing here defying the injunction, which means legally that when the police tell us to leave, if we don’t leave it could be an arrestable situation.”
Vancouver police arrested more than 40 people at the same intersection on Feb. 10 after protesters blocked the port entrance, prompting the port to get a court injunction.
The Port of Vancouver said that the court order it won at the B.C. Supreme Court remained in effect and that it was working with Vancouver police to address the blockage.
Vancouver police said they were monitoring the situation and that access to the port remains open at two other points.
“Each protest is unique and dealt with individually, decisions on how the VPD deal with each situation is made by our very experienced public safety commanders taking in public safety as our main concern,” said spokesperson Aaron Roed in an email.
In Victoria, a group calling itself Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en used locks to attach themselves to the main gate of the legislature, while hundreds gathered in front of the building to show their support.
An court injunction is in place preventing anyone from blocking access to the legislature building.
However, the entrance the group has locked itself to is not actually used for day-to-day legislature business, and is reserved for the lieutenant-governor.
“We are asking that Canada stand with us,” said the group in a social media statement.
“We are asking that you stand with us to bear witness to the enforcement of a colonial injunction on Indigenous youth who are conducting cultural business, not blockading. We are not protesters, we are protectors.”
The protests and blockades are in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and in opposition to RCMP and Coastal GasLink presence in Wet’suwet’en territory.
It follows tough talk from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday when he demanded that blockades that have paralyzed rail traffic in some parts of the country come down.
Trudeau met with his cabinet incident-response group on the issue on Monday morning. The group discussed possible solutions to the blockades and their ongoing economic impact.
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Na’Moks said all five hereditary clan chiefs are expected to meet in northern B.C. on Monday to plan their next steps and talks with the
RCMP could resume on Thursday at the earliest.
It remains unclear when the chiefs could meet with provincial or federal ministers to look for a solution to the impasse.
The pipeline company has signed agreements with all 20 elected Indigenous councils along its route, but hereditary chiefs who claim sole authority over unceded, traditional territory are steadfastly opposed to the project.
With files from the Canadian Press