Donna Johnson leads a solidarity march through the streets of Nanaimo in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation on Jan. 10 (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

Donna Johnson leads a solidarity march through the streets of Nanaimo in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation on Jan. 10 (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

Solidarity rally supporting the Wet’suwet’en First Nation takes place in Nanaimo

Supporters urge B.C. government to respect indigenous rights

Indigenous and non-indigenous people rallied through the streets of Nanaimo in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en on Friday afternoon.

The rally comes a little more than a year after RCMP officers arrested 14 people on Wet’suwet’en traditional territory, near Houston, after they refused to leave the area and allow construction work on a pipeline to begin.

At the time, officers were enforcing an injunction that ordered the removal of two First Nations camps at a place called Gidimt’en checkpoint, which were blocking the construction site for TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink project, a 670-kilometre pipeline that will run from Dawson Creek to an LNG terminal in Kitimat. Although Coastal GasLink has provincial and federal approval, it does not have the approval of Wet’suwet’en First Nation hereditary chiefs, who adamantly oppose the project in an effort to protect their lands so that future generations can continue to hunt, fish and trap on them.

Friday’s event was organized by Extinction Rebellion Nanaimo and also comes less than three weeks after a B.C. Supreme Court judge issued another injunction which prohibits protesters and the Wet’suwet’en from blocking access to the construction sites. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have issued an eviction notice to TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink ordering workers to leave their land.

Supporters gathered at Diana Krall Plaza before making their way to the Dunsmuir Place building, where the offices of Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly and local MLA Sheila Malcolmson are located. Following speeches and a prayer circle outside of the politicians’ offices, supporters then marched to the Nanaimo RCMP detachment on Prideaux Street.

RELATED: Protesters rally in support of B.C. First Nation chiefs against natural gas pipeline

Robert Fuller, a member of Extinction Rebellion, told the crowd on Dunsmuir Street that although the B.C. government recently passed legislation committing itself to the United Nation’s declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, they’re not taking that declaration seriously.

“There is no access to Wet’suwet’en territory without their consent,” he said. “They are the title holders and the province must address the issue of [Wet’suwet’en] title if they want to gain access to the land.”

Fuller also said TC Energy will “rely on RCMP violence” in order to “force their way” onto the Wet’suwet’en territory to continue the construction of Coastal GasLink, adding that today’s event was about showing support for the Wet’suwet’en.

“We stand Wet’suwet’en strong,” he told the crowd.

Leah Morgan told the crowd out front of the RCMP detachment that it is critical that everyone stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and protect them from “deadly force” that is on their land. She said it’s also important for everyone to stand together and send a clear message that “colonial genocide” will not be tolerated for “one more minute.”

“No matter what religion, race, colour, background you come from. It doesn’t matter if you have money, if you don’t have money, we are all here and we are all going to face a climate that cannot sustain life on this planet if we do not protect Canada because we are one of the last places with a strong enough eco-system currently to sustain us,” she said. “But it is rapidly dwindling, therefore we need to hold hands with the Wet’suwet’en.”

RELATED: Leonardo DiCaprio voices support for Unist’oten anti-pipeline camp in northern B.C.

Julia and Bettina Thomas, Nuu-chah-nulth women from Ahousat, told the News Bulletin they came across the rally while in town and decided to participate.

“We were just strolling about and I saw a button blanket so I assumed I should go and stand with our people and the people who are fighting for our rights,” Julia said.

Julia, who also spoke during the rally, said it is important for people to understand that respecting indigenous rights also means respecting environmental rights.

“Our teachings are here to protect what we are given and what gives us life and that also means other people on this planet, not just us. It’s for everybody.”

There were a number of non-indigenous people participating in the rally on Friday. Bettina said years ago, that might not have been the case and that it was beautiful to see so many non-indigenous people really care about the issues her people are facing.

“Seeing non-native people leading these events now, they’re singing and understanding and I think when they’re out doing all this it gets the word out so much more to non-native people and it’s really good,” Bettina said. “To see and hear someone respond to what we’ve been talking about for all these years and then to have people listen and write letters, it’s a beautiful feeling.”







nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com 
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An man from Errington died when his ATV went over an embankment on Northwest Bay Logging Road on the weekend. (File photo)
Man dies in ATV crash northwest of Nanaimo

Incident happened on Northwest Bay Logging Road on Saturday afternoon

Volunteers plant trees earlier this month as part of a City of Nanaimo initiative. (City of Nanaimo photo)
City holds ‘relay’ to plant 600 trees and shrubs in Nanaimo

Trees were planted along Chase River and at Third Street Park

Vancouver Island University organizations are raising awareness about gender-based violence during 16 Days of Activism, which includes the Red Dress Project hosted by VIUSU that aims to honour the memory of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. (Vancouver Island University photo)
City proclamation calls on Nanaimo to unite to end violence against women

16 Days of Activism campaign started Nov. 25, continues to Dec. 10

The Nanaimo Rona location. (News Bulletin photo)
Rona home improvement store in Nanaimo advises customers that worker has COVID-19

Store re-opened Sunday after being closed for cleaning Saturday

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009. (RCMP photo)
Human remains found off U.S. coast in 2009 identified as Penticton man

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009

Remains of the scene off Melrose Road in Whiskey Creek where three bodies were found on Nov. 1, 2020. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Probe continues into grisly mid-Island discovery of 3 human bodies, 4 dead dogs

Police still want to speak with motorist who picked up hitchhikers near scene on Nov. 1

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond speaks to a reporter in Vancouver on November 13, 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
No evidence that B.C. ER staff played blood alcohol level game, but Indigenous racism ‘widespread’

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond releases findings of independent investigation

The Nov. 20 WestJet flight 3171 has been identified by the BC Centre for Disease Control with a COVID case aboard. (Black Press file photo)
Fifth COVID-19 exposure reported on flight at Comox airport

Another exposure risk from flight originating in Calgary

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan announce $5 billion emergency fund for COVID-19 unemployment and other relief, B.C. legislature, March 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
Carole James stays on to advise B.C. Premier John Horgan

Retired finance minister to earn a dollar a year

NDP Leader John Horgan, left, speaks as local candidate Ravi Kahlon listens during a campaign stop at Kahlon’s home in North Delta, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Janice Perrino, Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation CEO, holds information brochures for the Light the Trees campaign, part of an effort to raise $5 million for the new intensive care unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Million-dollar donation has Light the Trees campaign off to a bright start in Nanaimo

Windsor Plywood Foundation supports Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation

Most Read