wetsuweten protests

Students staged a mass walkout from universities across Canada

Yesterday, young people across Canada staged a coordinated walkout in a massive demonstration of support for Wet'suwet'en First Nation and its hereditary chiefs who continue to oppose the contentious Coastal GasLink pipeline that will cut through their land in northern B.C.

Thousands of students from at least 36 post-secondary institutions and high schools from coast-to-coast — including the University of Toronto, UBC, Dalhousie University, University of Ottawa, University of Calgary and Université du Québec à Montréal — participated in the national event.

The walkouts were not just in objection to the pipeline, but also to the continued RCMP surveillance and presence on Wet'suwet'en land and what the whole weeks-long ordeal has meant for Indigenous solidarity and reconciliation in Canada.

Work on the 670 km-long, $6.6-billion natural gas line continued on March 2 following talks between Wet'suwet'en chiefs and the B.C. and federal governments last weekend, which ended in some resolutions about the Wet'suwet'en peoples' land and title rights, but not about the fate of the forthcoming pipeline itself.

Some B.C. students participating in the event made their way to the B.C. legislature in Victoria, where a demonstration organized by Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en took place.

A group of activists were later arrested and removed from the legislature after occupying a room in the building following a meeting with Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser.

Other students, like those in Vancouver and Toronto, blocked traffic on major roads, which has been a common tactic of protests across the country over the past month. Transportation was impacted in some new locations yesterday as a result.

The walkouts were largely organized by a number of local groups and organizations ranging from student associations to human rights coalitions.

Rallies and transportation blockades continue all over Canada for the fourth week in a row now as First Nations and allies refuse to back down until their demands are met.

Though 20 elected band councils did initially sign off on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, some Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs are still opposed, and have vowed to protect their land — which led to numerous controversial arrests by police on Wet'suwet'en land and elsewhere in Canada.

Additional layers — like a legacy of colonization and Indigenous genocide, the RCMP's treatment of media trying to document the events and the fact that RCMP pensions are invested into the company behind the pipeline — make the issue even more complex and delicate.

Lead photo by

Leap Chapter U of T


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