On Monday about 45 people gathered in front of MLA Michelle Mungall’s Nelson office to support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their blockade against the Coastal GasLink pipeline and the RCMP.
This week, on a forest road near Smithers, B.C., the RCMP enforced a court injunction by arresting and removing inhabitants of a blockade that had prevented Coastal GasLink from building a portion of its pipeline across central B.C.
The lead-up to the arrests led to demonstrations across the country by Wet’suwet’en supporters who blocked transportation routes including the Port of Vancouver.
One of the contentious issues is who is entitled to give consent to the company: the traditional hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en (who oppose the pipeline and blockaded the route) or the modern system of elected band councils (many of whom support it but whose jurisdictions don’t extend beyond the limited boundaries of their reserves).
Mungall’s office is open this week by appointment only, so there was no interaction with her or her staff.
Three people at the Nelson demonstration told the Star why they were there.
“To be honest, I am angry and upset. And I am also really uplifted by the grace of the matriarchs in their holding the line today (at the Unistoten camp) and upset at the Canadian public in what seems like wilful ignorance about the situation. It’s like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission never wrote a report and there was never an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“People are saying, well all these band councils signed agreements for the pipeline. Well, so what? Unistoten did not sign it and it is their territory. Elected band councils, my hats off to them, they have a hard job to do, but they are empowered by the Indian Act and govern mostly what happens on reserves but they do not replace the hereditary system. We have so much to learn. It makes me sad.”
“I’m here because the forcible removal with the full tactical teams of the RCMP at Unistoten camp is both against Wet’suwet’en law and against Canadian law itself, and I am ashamed that it is my government that is doing this. It it not lawful and not just.
“What is happening up there is a continuation of the history of colonialism and violence against Indigenous people of Canada, and it is obvious that it is happening today. It is blatant. This is an opportunity to show support on the right side of history.”
“I am here for solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en, and I am outraged at what is happening with them. It is heartwarming to see the support in Seattle and San Francisco and everywhere. But it is heartbreaking.
“The government of B.C. has supported the United Nations Declaration on the Rights if Indigenous People but they don’t understand that no means no when it comes to prior informed consent.”