via rail protest

Here's what you need to know about the Wet’suwet’en protests

Thousands across the country this week are protesting the RCMP's enforcement of a Supreme Court injunction to remove demonstrators from sovereign indigenous land so that construction of the contentious forthcoming Coastal Gaslink pipeline can continue.

The 670 km-long natural gas line, which will cut through Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C. on its way to Kitimat, has been contended by a number of activists for environmental, social justice and other reasons.

Tensions have notably ramped up now that officers are on the ground dismantling Wet'suwet'en encampments and making arrests at key pipeline work sites, with rallies against their actions taking place in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Halifax, Winnipeg, Edmonton, St. John's, Lethbridge and Victoria.

As a tactic of peaceful protest, blockades have been implemented to bar access to things like transit lines, roads and ports. 

Sit-ins are also being held at governmental buildings ranging from the B.C. Legislature in Victoria to the Ministry of Justice in Ottawa to Vancouver City Hall, interrupting military parades and throne speech ceremonies.

Demonstrators have halted rail traffic on the CN line between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal for multiple days now while others stalled public transit service in the Quebec city's downtown core.

Train tracks in Hazleton, B.C. and near Halifax have also been affected, as have the streets of downtown Vancouver and Calgary.

Multiple port terminals on the coast of B.C. are also being blocked for the fifth consecutive day, and more than 45 people there have been arrested as police enforce court orders to remove the activists from the property.

Other injunctions have been burned by protestors as the demonstrations continue, like at the rail blockade in Ontario, where CN has deployed its Aboriginal Affairs team to liaise with those involved and said the protests are "hurting Canada's reputation."

The blockades have meant hundreds of cancelled trains, both commuter and freight, as well as port disruptions that have had a significant impact on the import and export of goods, as one dollar in every three of Canada's international trade moves through the Port of Vancouver, according to the Financial Post.

As one demonstrator told the CBC, "the point of the blockade is to disrupt the money that is coming in and out of the port, and send a clear message that business as usual cannot keep going on if Indigenous people are under attack."

Though Coastal Gaslink established agreements with 20 elected First Nations band councils along the line's route amid community consultations, a number of hereditary Wet'suwet'en Nation chiefs, one of whom was recently arrested, are still opposed to the project. 

Despite arrests at protest sites like the ports, demonstrators have vowed to continue to block key transportation routes and cause disruptions until the RCMP vacates Wet’suwet’en land.

Officers have instated media exclusion zones and threatened journalists trying to cover the events.

Lead photo by

Clare Yow

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