Protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en shuts down major Toronto intersection

People in Toronto are now joining thousands across the country who are protesting the RCMP’s recent arrests of anti-pipeline activists on unceded land in northern B.C.

Armed officers have dismantled camps and taken dozens of demonstrators into custody on We’tsuwet’en territory, where community members blocked access to work sites for the controversial 670 km-long Coastal GasLink pipineline that is due to cut through the area. 

Reminder that RCMP are not arresting “protestors;” they are trying to forcibly remove #Indigenous people off their unceded land for a project that is not authorized to proceed by provincial EAO & does not have authorization to proceed by the #Wetsuweten nation. #reconciliation

— Ashley (@CoyoteDreams) February 6, 2020

Rallies have been taking place everywhere from Victoria to Halifax over the past few days, and have included blockades of major transportation routes likes roads, rail lines and ports as a tactic of peaceful protest against the RCMP’s invasion of sovereign indigenous land.

The police action was to enforce a Supreme Court injunction mandating that construction of the natural gas line be permitted to continue.

#Wetsuwenten #pipeline protest blocking traffic at major intersection: Toronto’s Yonge and Eglinton. Not fans of the RCMP.

— Harrison Lowman (@harrisonlowman) February 11, 2020

Activists in Toronto today paid a visit to the Toronto office of Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister and Toronto-St. Paul’s MP Carolyn Bennett before taking over the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton with signs reading “no trespassing on Wet’suwet’en land,” “Canada off Unistoten” and “Indigenous sovereignity is climate justice.”

Attendees included members of Friends of Chinatown Toronto, which issued a statement of solidarity on social media saying “it is vital that we add our voices to the chorus of others condemning the colonial violence happening right now on Wet’suwet’en territory.”

Police were quick to arrive on the scene, but traffic at the corner — already a messy area thanks to the ongoing Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction — was halted in all directions for a number of hours as activists marched and chanted.

Similar demonstrations have been taking place on the streets of downtown Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary, as well as at train tracks near Belleville, Halifax, and Hazleton, B.C., shutting down service for both freight and commuter trains. 

Government buildings like the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, the Ministry of Justice in Ottawa and Vancouver City Hall have also been occupied by demonstrators, disrupting parades, throne speech ceremonies and more with the purpose of drawing attention to the cause and forcing the RCMP off Wet’suwet’en territory.

A circle of protestors occupy Yonge and Eglinton, in support of Wet’Suwet’En demonstrations in BC, and those blocking rail lines near Belleville. @680NEWS @CityNews @680NEWStraffic

— Mark Douglas (@Douglas680NEWS) February 11, 2020

Protestors have also blocked access to multiple ports on Canada’s west coast for five days, though police have made dozens of arrests as per a court injuction.

The situation is difficult, as Coastal Gaslink did sign agreements with multiple First Nations band councils along the pipeline’s route following what it called “extensive” community consultations, but a number of hereditary Wet’suwet’en Nation chiefs are still vocally opposed to the project. Others say that the majority of their community is in fact in support of the line.

Because nothing says #reconciliation like assault riffles, K9 units, forced removal + arrests of indigenous people from unceded land.

Wet’suwet’en have never signed treaties and still hold unceded rights to their land #ReconciliationIsDead #wetsuweten

— Charlotte Dawe (@ClimateChar) February 11, 2020

Many also take issue with what the RCMP presence represents to reconciliation and indigenous self-determination to manage their own lands, as is mandated by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

And, some question about the true strength of the support of the pipeline — and reasons behind that support — within First Nations communities.

The government of Canada plays poverty politics with the people all the time. Classic divide and conquer. Deals are signed behind closed doors and the “consultation”, if even held with band members at all, very rarely provides the people with a mechanism to say no. #Wetsuweten

— Christi Belcourt (@christibelcourt) February 11, 2020

The Toronto demonstration — just one of multiple — has been cleared as of 4 p.m. and traffic has resumed in the area, according to Newstalk 1010.

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