Toronto protest blocks CP tracks after Wet’suwet’en arrests

Protesters demand RCMP to terminate gas pipeline building and acknowledge Wet’suwet’en an unceded Indian territory

Protesters support Wet’suwet’en
Protestors are marching from Dovercourt Park to Dupont Street and Bartlett Avenue. Rita Maltceva/Toronto Observer

More than 400 people blocked the railway traffic near Bartlett Avenue in Toronto on Feb. 8 to support the Wet’suwet’en members, who got detained on their land in B.C.

“I’m in full solidarity with all those land defenders because, first of all, they are standing up for their own indigenous rights on land and they never ceded to anyone,” said Brian Champ, environmental activist and one of the protestors.

The arrests in B.C. occurred during a demonstration by First Nations. The Wet’suwet’en representatives at the protest said they opposed giving away their territory for the construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.

 The crowd chants slogans at the Wet’suwet’en protest on Feb. 8.

Armed with posters and banners, the Toronto protesters gathered at Dovercourt Park around 11 a.m. They walked north towards the railway tracks, shouting slogans, such as “You can’t drink oil – keep it in the soil” and “How do you spell racist? RCMP.”

When the demonstrators reached the rails, they formed a circle in which organizers made a speech about oppression of the Wet’suwet’en members and environmental damage that the construction of the pipeline might cause.

Toronto Police also attended the rally but did not take any action.

The blockade of the railway was symbolic as Canadian Pacific Railway ships oil and materials for pipelines across North America.

Photo of the protestors with posters and banners.
Protestors reached CP Railway at Bartlett Avenue, where they continued the demonstration until 5 p.m.

“We are here today to block the rail to stand in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en people because the RCMP is currently attacking [them],” said Vanessa Gray, an Anishinaabekwe from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation. “We are going to keep taking action until the RCMP stands down.”

Gray said that her friend, Yves Saint, is one of the protesters in B.C. and was arrested on Feb. 7. She said there was no reason for her detention by RCMP because “they have no jurisdiction [to be] on her own traditional territory.”

She said her friend “isn’t doing anything wrong by being on the land.”

Alie Hermanutz, an activist and one of the organizers of the protest, said it is a responsibility of the “settlers” to prevent RCMP from violent eviction of Indigenous communities from their unceded territory.

“Because [Canadians] are depending on [tar sands development] doesn’t mean they can violate the rights of Indigenous people,” he said. “Those private oil and gas corporations are defining what Indigenous title right looks like. It is really an unlawful and unethical process.”

Photo of a demonstrator with the sign that says "No pipelines."
The demonstrators require RCMP to stop the pipeline construction and leave the Wet’suwet’en land.

Champ said the authorities disregarded the rights of Indigenous people and failed to recognize their land.

“The B.C. government interpreted that injunction very narrowly: they don’t consider the constitutional question that is raised by the fact that [Aboriginal title] recognizes that the land belongs to Wet’suwet’en.”

Photo of a protestor at the background of the crowd.
Brian Champ, an environmental activist, says the Wet’suwet’en protestors in B.C. stand up for their Indigenous rights on the land that they never ceded to anyone.

Crystal Sinclair, one of the attendees of the rally, says the authorities neglect both the hereditary of First Nations and environmental issues.

People who stand for the future of their homeland and climate should not be detained, Sinclair says.

“Indigenous people have always cared about their environment because they live directly with the land. But the system that is in place now does not,” Sinclair said.

“We know that pipelines break, and once that poisonous bitumen reaches the land, it destroys and poisons the water.”

Photo of two attendees of the Wet’suwet’en protest.
A protestor Crystal Sinclair (on the right) says she joined the rally because she cares about the environment and the future of the Wet’suwet’en community.

Tensions began to emerge since Dec. 31, when the B.C. Supreme Court issued an expanded injunction to Coastal GasLink against the Wet’suwet’en Indigenous community. Its members were against this project, which aims to build a 670-kilometres pipeline.

After the injunction was issued, the RCMP encouraged the protesters to leave the region near Houston, B.C. Since then, the authorities have arrested over 20 demonstrators.

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Posted: Feb 12 2020 9:35 pm
Filed under: News