Hundreds gathered outside the Kelowna Law Courts to take part in a rally to show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en First Nation in its fight against the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline on Sunday (Feb. 9).
On Thursday, RCMP began enforcing an injunction order against Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and supporters blocking a liquefied natural gas project that goes through its traditional territory on the northwest coast of British Columbia.
Since then, six people were arrested at a protest camp as well as another 11 for allegedly barricading themselves in a warming centre along the only access road to the construction site for the contentious pipeline project, which runs across Wet’suwet’en territory.
Protesters are matching down Water Street. pic.twitter.com/5jpsfv1i5u— Michael Rodriguez (@MichaelRdrguez) February 9, 2020
Dixon Terbasket helped organize Kelowna’s rally. As a member of the Syilx First Nation and wildlife technician with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, he said he was happy to see people of all ethnicities come together to support Canada’s First Nations people and their land.
“What we’re doing is trying to create awareness,” said Terbasket.
“I just want to be respected as a human being, as somebody from this land and my children should have the same opportunities as (everyone else). It’s good to see people from all different backgrounds here. There’s an open dialogue created by people supporting us. It’s not just those guys, it’s us guys and that makes a big difference.”
The pipeline, which is part of a massive $40 billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export terminal project, runs from Dawson Creek to Kitimat on the northwest coast. The forestry road is part of an ongoing exclusion zone, which means that only police officers, hereditary chiefs or elected officials and media have been allowed through the checkpoint.
As tensions remain high along the rural northern B.C. road, a number of demonstrators had been protesting RCMP actions by occupying the legislature in Victoria for more than 24 hours. Another protest shut down access to the Port of Vancouver.
Gail Classens, one of the rally organizers in Kelowna, said it was important to take action.
“We saw the call for international solidarity actions,” said Classens.
“There was the raid on Thursday and then we decided that we had to do something to answer that call, so we made a Facebook event and it started circulating. I’m really happy with the turnout.”
While the Syilx First Nation is more than 10 hours away from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Classens said its important unite as one and to show solidarity.
“I think it’s extremely important, (the Wet’suwet’en First Nation) has asked for solidarity events and I think it’s important to stand up and try to fight back even if we are from somewhere that’s far away.”
- with files from Ashley Wadhwani