Wet’suwet’en blockade supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents took to the streets Friday, marching towards RCMP headquarters in Victoria.
Around 2:30 p.m., demonstrators were blocking traffic at Blanshard Street and Topaz Avenue, but let northbound and southbound traffic turn right onto Topaz.
Members of the Gidimt’en clan ordered all Coastal GasLink employees to leave the Wet’suwet’en territory in the interior of British Columbia on Sunday in a move the company said contradicts a court order.
A Victoria demonstrator going by the alias, Raccoon, told Black Press Media that Wet’suwet’en members are facing intimidation on their own land by the RCMP’s presence.
“We’re here to show solidarity and that we don’t agree with the industry or the RCMP on what’s happening on (Wet’suwet’en land),” she said.
As an Indigenous person, she said the government continues to side with resource extractors over Indigenous people.
“It’s just unfair,” she said.
Raccoon said funds going towards increased RCMP enforcement in places like Wet’suwet’en territory and the Fairy Creek watershed, where there’s been long-standing old-growth logging blockades, would be better utilized finding alternative routes for the pipeline.
She added Indigenous people should be able to have sovereignty over their traditional territory.
“It’s letting the Indigenous people say ‘No you can’t build here’ and then not building there.”
Ali Owen, another demonstrator, said she attended Friday’s event because, amid environmental crises, governments still aren’t listening.
“It’s a lot of frustration and continued failure on the part of leaders to do anything or make any real change,” Owen said, calling negotiations at the recent COP26 “pathetic” and pointing to a need for a total revamp of electricity and energy systems.
On Thursday, RCMP officers cleared a blockade on the Morice Forest Service Road near Houston, B.C., where Coastal GasLink said 500 workers had been “stranded” since Sunday. Mounties arrested 14 people in the process. The company said in a Friday statement that enforcement at the Morice Forest Service Road drill site location has been completed.
“It is unfortunate that the RCMP must take these steps so that lawful access to our lodges and public forestry roads can be restored and to ensure the safety of those in the area including our workforce, contractors, and the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members,” Friday’s statement said.
The natural gas pipeline project is more than half finished with almost all of the route cleared and 200 kilometres of pipeline installed so far.
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