Dozens protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Kiera-Dawn Kolson helped organize the protest in Yellowknife in support of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns).

“Denendeh in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en unceded territory,” read a sign taped to the windows in front of MP Michael McLeod’s Yellowknife office.

The sign was one of about a dozen showing support for the Gidimt’en clan and the Unist’o’ten camp of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. The signs were put up by dozens of protesters gathered at McLeod’s office in solidarity with the northern B.C. First Nation.

Yesterday, the RCMP arrested 14 people after they were accused of violating the conditions of a court injunction to remove the blockade preventing the Coastal GasLink project from going forward.

“Hopefully by bringing people together to create this type of awareness that peaceful protest do and can lead to accountability,” said Kiera-Dawn Kolson.

Kolson struggled through tears to say that she had a friend who’s at the blockade and asked her to “bring people from the North.”

Seen before

For Gerri Sharpe, the parallel is uncanny between what’s happening in BC and the Standing Rock protests from a couple of years ago.

“There are people who are going onto territory that is not theirs and they have no business being there,” she said. “There has to be a balance between profit and land… if it’s only for money in the moment it’s not worth it one bit.”

The RCMP also set up temporary exclusion zones preventing anyone from the public, including the media, from accessing the site. The arrest took place at the Gidimt’en checkpoint; the Unist’o’ten camp is the second set up by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and the RCMP has begun making its way towards it.

Melaw Nahkek’o, who was at the Yellowknife protest, choked up as she called the ongoing clash “heartbreaking” and “terrifying”.

Protesters taped their signs to the windows of MP Michael McLeod’s office. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns).

‘No forced removal’

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde issued a statement decrying the arrests.

“This use of force against peaceful people is a violation of human rights and First Nations’ rights. Building consensus under duress will make the resolution of the situation in Northern British Columbia very difficult. Real consensus will be built when the parties, with very different views, come together in meaningful and productive dialogue. And I am confident that they can do this,” it read.

It continued to say both Canada and B.C. signed onto the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, whose article 10 states “No Forced Removal.”

In Yellowknife, Kolson called on Canada to respect that, “because what it did yesterday was basically take it and rip it apart.”

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis is a reporter with CKLB. Previously, he worked at The Review newspaper in Vankleek Hill, ON. He tackles anything in his work; his interest focus on the environment, Indigenous communities and politics. His first experience in the North was in 2016 as an intern with Up Here magazine. He and his partner fell in love with Yellowknife and are very happy to be back. Now they're looking to explore and experience anything the North has to offer.

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