Pipeline clash with First Nations fuels protests across North America and beyond

Kareem Gouda / January 8th

Rallies were organized across Canada Tuesday to show support for a Northern BC First Nation that has been preventing a pipeline company from accessing their traditional territory.

In Vancouver, hundreds descended upon the downtown core to voice their support for the Wet’suwet’en First Nation whose land is right in the path of the future TransCanada Coastal GasLink pipeline.

One of the protesters called on the Federal government to, “listen, slow down and just respect our people and respect our ways.”

RCMP arrested 14 protesters Monday for allegedly violating a BC Supreme Court injunction to remove protesters and their barricades from the roads and worksite on the Wet’suwet’en land.

One of the protesters called on the Federal government to, “listen, slow down and just respect our people and respect our ways.” (Darrian Matassa-Fung / BCIT News)

“What’s going on with oil and gas companies and First Nations in this country is a violation on so many levels ” – Eerol Povah

How did we get here ?

The Wet’suwet’en nation and TransCanada Corporation clash started in 2012 when TransCanada was selected to build the liquid natural gas (LNG) CoastalGaslink project.

This starts up a series of challenges for both sides as almost immediately the Wet’suwet’en blockades an access route to the future work site.

The RCMP were sent in to enforce the BC Supreme Court injunction to remove anyone from blocking the construction of the pipeline.

This timeline shows the major moments leading to the arrests on Monday and the Canada-wide demonstrations on Tuesday.


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Support from far and wide

The Vancouver protest is just one of many. The series of protests were organized by Harsha Walia, an activist and organizer based in Vancouver. Walia had this to say about the protesters at the checkpoint up in Northern B.C.

Unist’ot’en Camp and the more recent Gidimt’en Checkpoint is one of the most courageous, visionary, uncompromising and generative struggles on these lands. For the past eight years, they have painstakingly been re-occuping their lands, asserting their jurisdiction, vitalizing food and medicinal sovereignty, healing their community at their newly built healing lodge and homestead, and governing through their hereditary clan and feast system. It has to be said they did all this without the support of many mainstream settler organizations or ENGO’s, many of whom at different times actively sidelined or undermined the struggle. – Harsha Walia, No One is Illegal

Protesters gathered Tuesday from as far as Atlanta, Georgia to Whitehorse, Yukon even to Stockholm, Sweden. Many in attendance are offering their support and solidarity with those at the Unist’ot’en Camp. On the flip side, others are staunchly anti-pipeline and come at it from an energy position as well.

According to the RCMP release, they’re justified in their enforcement of the injunction since the injunction order gave protesters 72 hours to remove any obstructions, including but not limited to gates, they have caused of created on the Morice River Bridge or the Morice West Forest Services Road. If such obstructions are not removed within 72 hours, the Plaintiff is at liberty to remove those obstructions, including any gates.

Will update this story as it develops.