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Wet'suwet'en support protest shuts down Portage Avenue in front of RCMP headquarters
WINNIPEG -- A large group of protesters took to Winnipeg streets Friday afternoon to rally against RCMP moving in on Wet’suwet’en camps in British Columbia.
At one point, a large number of people took over the intersection of Portage Avenue and Dominion Street in front of the Manitoba RCMP headquarters building, raising awareness for the ongoing conflict over a pipeline.
Coastal GasLink is building a pipeline from northeastern British Columbia to LNG Canada’s export terminal on the coast. The company said it signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations along the route, but hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation said the project doesn’t have authority without their consent.
In December 2019, the British Columbia Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an interlocutory injunction against members of the First Nation and anyone who opposes the pipeline.
In Jan. 7, 2020, the natural gas pipeline company posted an injunction order giving opponents 72 hours to clear the way to its work site, and requiring them to remove any obstructions on the roads, bridges or worksites the company has been authorized to use.
Supporters of the clan chiefs felled trees along the road and built encampments after the chiefs issued an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink.
According to a news release from the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, the rally was held in Winnipeg to protest against RCMP “raiding peaceful Wet’suwet’en camps, arresting land defenders who are protecting their unceded territory from the Coastal GasLink pipeline.”
The coalition said it wants Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal to put out a statement condemning militarized exclusion zones on Wet’suwetet’en territory, and call on RCMP to withdraw its use of “surveillance intimidation tactics” in order to negotiate with hereditary chiefs.
Earlier this week, Vandal’s Winnipeg office was occupied by Indigenous youth in support of the protest.
Vandal tweeted Friday that he met that day with Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en Winnipeg, saying he respects and shares their passion.
“As I shared at the meeting, this project falls fully under provincial jurisdiction, and no order of government can direct the RCMP and their operations,” Vandal tweeted.
He said he encourages youth to raise concerns with the B.C. government and all sides to work toward a solution.
- With files from The Canadian Press’s Hina Alam and Amy Smart.