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Hundreds protest RCMP raids on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory

Raids come as RCMP enforce injunction to allow pipeline company access to land
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The protest was held at Nathan Phillips Square and was mainly hosted by the Soaring Eagles Camp. THEO ARBEZ/THE VARSITY
The protest was held at Nathan Phillips Square and was mainly hosted by the Soaring Eagles Camp. THEO ARBEZ/THE VARSITY

Hundreds of people protested in Nathan Phillips Square on January 8 as part of a national movement against Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raids on traditional unceded Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia.

Background on the Wet’suwet’en land issue

Protests across the country came the day after the RCMP enforced a court-ordered injunction to allow pipeline company Coastal GasLink access to Wet’suwet’en territory.

Coastal GasLink has not been able to access the land because of two blockades that have been set up by clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to control access to their land.

The first is a gated checkpoint by the Unist’ot’en clan, which has been in place since 2009.

More recently, the neighbouring Gidimt’en clan set up their own checkpoint, which was the one raided by the RCMP on January 7.

Though the Wet’suwet’en Nation has been resisting the pipeline for a decade, the issue is coming to a head now because Coastal GasLink applied for an injunction that was granted by the BC Supreme Court in December.

The injunction ordered for the camps to be dismantled to allow the company access to build its pipeline.

On January 9, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs came to an agreement with the RCMP to allow them to keep their gated checkpoint, but will allow Coastal GasLink through to begin work.

Part of the agreement also states that the RCMP will not raid the camp or enter the Unist’ot’en healing lodge without an invitation.

Toronto protest draws hundreds

The protest was mainly hosted by the Soaring Eagles Camp, a group that was created in response to the deaths of Indigenous youths Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie.

Master of ceremonies and Wet’suwet’en Water Protector Eve Saint led the rally by calling on supporters to mobilize.

“We have a fight ahead of us and we have power together,” said Saint.

The protest began in Nathan Phillips Square and moved through the Financial District before ending at 100 University Avenue, which contains the offices of Computershare Trust Company, TransCanada’s transfer agent.

U of T alum Jesse Wente, an Indigenous writer, broadcaster, and advocate, told the crowd that “reconciliation does not come at the end of a gun.”

“War… I challenge Canadians, is that the relationship you want with Indigenous people?”

Speaker Vanessa Gray, from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, spoke to The Varsity after the rally, saying that people need to “question their pride in being Canadian.”

“Canada is just as racist as it ever has been and we need people with privilege to act now.”

U of T itself invests in the fossil fuel industry, a fact that has prompted much backlash from student groups in the past few years.

When asked about U of T’s involvement in the industry, Saint told The Varsity, “I would say that you are investing in Canada’s genocide of Indigenous peoples. There is death in these pipelines… It is stained with blood, Indigenous blood, because all the industry are on Indigenous land and territory and they poison people.”

“If you want to fight climate change and stop this madness, back Indigenous people and be aware and stand together.”