Indigenous rights protesters in Victoria vowing 'B.C. government shutdown' remain peaceful

With an injunction barring them from the legislature building, protesters in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs took their fight to other government buildings in Victoria. Brad MacLeod reports.

Protesters supporting Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline vowed a “B.C. government shutdown” on Friday.

But despite the aggressive language of a social media post organizing the event, Friday’s demonstration was more a peaceful picket than the solid blockade seen at the B.C. legislature on Tuesday.

Dozens of protesters, some bearing signs, others handing out pamphlets, stood outside the environment and advanced education ministries, along with ministry offices downtown and on Jutland Road.


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“There’s a lot of fake news and a lot of lies, but I’m hoping we can come together, there’s a lot of support,” said Quinn Franks, one of the Indigenous youth at the picket lines.

“We love our country and we’re supporting the Indigenous people,” said Roxanne Derkson, one of the dozens of people who turned out in support of the action.

“First we take away their land, and now we have to support them to try to save it again.

Organizers at the scene asked protesters on the picket line not to speak with media, and attempted to direct media to speak only with Indigenous youth media liaisons.

“We really want their voices to be heard,” one of the organizers told assembled protesters outside the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

The protesters have specifically aimed their message at B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union workers, whom they have invited to join the protests in the wake of the union’s prior supportive messaging.

Earlier this week, the union issued a statement distancing itself from the protests despite previously voicing its support for the cause, adding that the union was not participating in the demonstrations.


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In a social media post, protest organizers stressed that the event is meant to be peaceful.

“We wish to remind participants, media, bystanders and workers that our picket will aspire to be a friendly invitation to choose Indigenous solidarity and not continued colonial violence,” reads the post.

Victoria police said their officers did not report any traffic disruptions or “serious incidents” during Friday’s protests, and no arrests were made.

On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan said “there is a plan in place” to protect government employees amid the protests.

On Thursday, the B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction to keep protesters from blocking access to the provincial legislature, days after Indigenous rights demonstrators disrupted the speech from the throne.

The injunction is specific to the legislative grounds and does not cover other government and ministry buildings that were targeted by Friday’s protests.

Demonstrators are acting in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would traverse their traditional territory near Houston, B.C.

Widespread solidarity protests broke out across B.C. and Canada after the RCMP moved in last week to enforce an injunction clearing blockades along the pipeline’s route.

The company has signed agreements with all 20 elected Indigenous councils along its route, who govern on-reserve matters.

No treaties have been signed covering traditional Wet’suwet’en territory, and hereditary chiefs say they have exclusive authority over that land outside of reserves.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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