Actions across globe planned in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en clans

Downtown pipeline protest draws small crowd

On the elected side, the Wet'suwet'en First Nation is one of 20 B.C. First Nations that have signed a project agreement with Coastal GasLink, a TransCanada Corp. subsidiary that wants to build a natural gas pipeline across northern feed a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Kitimat.

Construction on the $6.2 billion pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat was scheduled to begin this month.

On Dec. 14, the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs issued a statement saying they were deeply concerned by the National Energy Board's decision denying their request to participate in a jurisdictional challenge to the permits issued to TransCanada's Coastal GasLink pipeline project, which would cross Wet'suwet'en territories.

Members of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, which is made up of five clans that have 13 houses, have long protested construction of pipelines through the nation's 22,000 square kilometres of claimed traditional territory.

"Forces marching toward gate on Gitumt'en, they are starting to breach, they are armed", said the protesters' Twitter account. It includes a camp and gate that obstructs Morice West forest service road and the Morice River Bridge.

For guiding principals on how to support actions, and a fact sheet on the Gidimt'en Access Point, visit the Wet'suwet'en Access Point page on Facebook.

In Vancouver, hundreds of people have said they will be attending a demonstration in the city, planned for Tuesday. They're also prohibited from threatening, intimidating or getting within 10 metres of anyone actively working on the project.

"To say that Coastal GasLink has not engaged with hereditary chiefs is simply untrue", the company said on January 7 on its website, citing more than 100 in-person meetings and 1,000-plus calls and e-mails over the past five years "with hereditary groups".

Mounties say various offences, including alleged violations of an injunction order against the blockade, prompted Monday's arrests.

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In his discussions with the RCMP, Cullen says he's asked that officers keep the peace, all while maintaining respect for the First Nations.

According to an RCMP release Monday evening, police "observed a number of fires being lit along the roadway by unknown persons, and large trees felled across the roadway", after the arrests.

Speaking to NEWS 1130 following his visit to an exclusion zone set up by Mounties near the blockade, Nathan Cullen says he's spoken to protesters, the RCMP, and the company behind the LNG pipeline to ensure things remain calm. On Monday, the officers convened in Houston before heading to the Gidimt'en checkpoint. Gidumt'en Clan spokesperson Molly Wickham was arrested on her land.

Ridsdale said that the chiefs are "hurt" by actions of Coastal GasLink, and he accused the RCMP of being "puppets (of) industry and a government that won't stand up for Indigenous rights".

"It is unfortunate that the RCMP must take this step so that lawful access for this public bridge and road can be re-established", he said.

He said the pipeline will meet rigorous environment standards and bring significant benefits, including an estimated 2,500 jobs, many with First Nations contractors. The company has engaged with all First Nations groups along the project, both hereditary and elected, and also has some hereditary support, said Cunha.

"I think a lot of folks are not seeing the importance of the water, like here in Hamilton we have very polluted water and people are just used to it, they don't see that it's abnormal that we can't actually drink from Lake Ontario, they're just like 'oh this is the way it has to be'".

Despite what appeared to a be a subdued start to their interaction with demonstrators, the force said in a statement that night that more than a dozen people had been taken into custody, adding that officers felt confident the standoff could not be resolved without their involvement. "In any situation such as this, we hope all parties find a safe and mutually respectful resolution", he said.

Edmonton's event is part of an worldwide effort, with 54 other rallies are planned for Tuesday.

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