About 100 people marched on Fredericton’s Westmorland Bridge during the noon hour on Jan. 15, slowing traffic, to show their solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en people who are opposing the Coastal GasLink gas pipeline on their territory in northern British Columbia.
Kyanna Kingbird, a St. Thomas University (STU) student from Esgenoopetitj, organized the rally. At the rally, she was joined by Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay (Spasaqsit Possesom), STU Elder-in-Residence Miigam’agan, traditional singers, drummers, elders, students and allies, which included representatives of the Communist Party of Canada.
“The system we’re living in isn’t set up to benefit us, and when one Indigenous person is elected to be a part of that and speak for us they just end up benefiting themselves. The system is set up to depend on the economy so that is all we defend,” said Kingbird.
The day before the rally, Tremblay, Alma Brooks, a Wolastoq Clan Grandmother and a dozen allies met with Fredericton Oromocto MP Matt DeCourcey to state their support for the Wet’suwet’en and traditional governments’ right to say no to developments on their territory.
Tremblay told DeCourcey that First Nations are being coerced into supporting pipelines on their territory due to their impoverished conditions, a historical legacy of colonialism. Some First Nations along the path of pipelines in British Columbia are supportive of the projects while hereditary clan chiefs remain opposed.
The Fredericton rally and meeting with MP were part of actions held in mid-January to support the Wet’suwet’en in the wake of 14 people being arrested on Jan. 8 for allegedly failing to comply with a court injunction that ordered people stop blockading the Gitdumt’en access point road so that Coastal GasLink could work on their pipeline.
The Gitdumt’en blockade was part of the Unist’ot’en Camp set up nine years ago to defend Indigenous territory from various resource extraction projects.
According to a Unist’ot’en Camp communiqué released after the take down of the Gitdumt’en blockade:
This fight is far from over.
We paved the way with the Delgamuuk’w court case and the time has come for Delgamuuk’w II. We have never had the financial resources to challenge the colonial court system, due to the enormous price tag of an Aboriginal title case.
Who will stand with us to make sure this pipeline does not go through?
Who will support our work to reclaim our territories and assert our right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent?
Who will insist that Indigenous peoples have the right to say NO to projects that inflict violence on our people and territories?
Jared Durelle is a journalism student at St. Thomas University.