Premier John Horgan says there is a plan in place to prepare for expected protests at government buildings in Victoria on Friday.
An online Facebook group has been created encouraging people to “shut down the B.C. government” in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en members protesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in the north.
“Government is working on a plan to address these issues,” Horgan said in question period Wednesday.
“I want all members of this place and all public employees working for the province of British Columbia there is a plan in place to protect them in the event that this type of activity continues.”
Wednesday’s question period came a day after a large protest interrupted traditional events leading up to the annual speech from the throne. Protesters denied elected officials and legislature staff access to the building, requiring them to use secret doors.
Organizers of Friday’s protests have invited members of the B.C. Government Employees Union (BCGEU) to “turn their union’s supportive statements for Wet’suwet’en into meaningful action.”
But the BCGEU is distancing itself from the protests despite voicing support for their cause.
“The BCGEU is not affiliated with the organizers and the union is not participating in the planned protests on Friday,” a statement from the union reads.
A social media post from organizer Seb Bonet says the group is planning the protests “in response to leadership from Wet’suwet’en and Indigenous Youth at the legislature.”
“A whole bunch of us have committee to coordinating the shut down of as many B.C. government ministries as we can,” Bonet writes.
Horgan spoke to reporters on Wednesday after cancelling a planned media availability on Tuesday. The premier explained why he decided to cancel his event in the midst of the protest at the legislature.
“Peaceful demonstration is fundamental to our success as a democracy,” Horgan said. “But to have a group of people say to others, ‘You are illegitimate. You are not allowed in here. You are somehow a sell-out to the values of Canadians,’ is just plain wrong and I want to underline that.
“I chose not to talk directly to you yesterday because of my personal feelings at the time. These were strong feelings held by every one of you in the press gallery and I think right across this province.”
Indigenous youth and their supporters had been sleeping at the legislature since Thursday. They left a few hours after the speech from the throne.
Additional protesters arrived throughout the day Tuesday. Victoria police say four people have come forward saying their were hurt or had property damaged during the disruption.
Horgan said he was frustrated to see people stopped from being able to access their workplace.
“People who work here every day — whether they be support staff for the functioning of the legislature, whether they work in ministers’ offices for the Liberals, the NDP — they did not sign on to be ridiculed and pushed and jostled by people when they were just coming to do their job,” Horgan said.
“So that was troubling me throughout the day, and I think all of you felt the same way. I’m not unique in that regard.”
When asked why the protesters were not arrested, Horgan said those decisions are not up to him.
“I don’t want to live in a society where politicians direct police to take action against other citizens without appropriate reason for doing so,” he said. “That’s why we have courts. That’s why injunctions are sought. I don’t believe, if you peel it back … I mean people say, ‘Hey, you’re in my way. Get out of my way. Why aren’t the cops doing something?’ I understand that.
“I do not want to be able to phone the police as the leader of the government and say, ‘Move those people off the bridge.’ That’s not my role.”
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