On February 23, Mi’kmaq water protectors and community members in K’jipuktuk/Halifax rallied at the Peace and Freedom Park on Hollis St. and South St., to show support for Wet’suwet’en sovereignty, and solidarity with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs opposing the Coastal Gaslink (CGL) pipeline. It’s estimated that over 500 people participated in the events.
The rally kicked off in the park where the Cornwallis statue was removed, widely seen as a flashpoint for anti-colonial resistance locally. Wet’suwet’en supporters then took to the streets, heading to Victoria Park. They capped off the gathering with a round dance at the intersection of Spring Garden St. and South Park St.
The event’s size, diversity, and colourful banners and chants, demonstrated widespread support for Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice, a contrast to the mainstream narrative that Canadians are suffering and deeply inconvenienced due to Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades. As one sign pointed out, “Boil water advisories are also inconvenient.”
A key aim of the rally was to challenge misinformation relating to the blockades. This included CN blaming the blockades for massive layoffs, though the company had announced plans for layoffs back in November due to a “weakening of many sectors of the economy.”
On February 6, the RCMP began a series of heavily militarized raids aimed at removing Wet’suwet’en land defenders from their unceded territory in order to make way for the CGL project. The RCMP have remained on Wet’suwet’en territory, despite calls by Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs for their immediate withdrawal, as well as the suspension of the CGL project.
Indigenous people and other supporters throughout the country have responded by engaging in peaceful direct actions such as blockades and occupations of ports, bridges, rails roads and government offices. Since February 6th, the Mohawk people of Tyendinaga have been camped out at a CN rail crossing in their territory, halting the company’s operations in the area.
At a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Trudeau sternly demanded an end to the blockades, raising concerns that police would move in to forcibly make that happen. That same day, it was revealed that CGL’s final report to BC’s Environmental Assessment Office had been rejected, affecting the area where the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre is located.
Grassroots grandmother Dorene Bernard said: “The announcement that the CGL report was denied, that they do not have the final permit and need to consult with the Wet’suwet’en, proves that CGL broke laws to destroy the land, trapping lines, and historic sites, with the help of the RCMP and the Horgan government.”
This week, Minister Bill Blair told the media that the RCMP would leave Wet’suwet’en territory on the condition that the roads remain clear for CGL to continue their work. Wet’suwet’en land defenders, meanwhile, continue to report RCMP surveillance and harassment.
Bernard added: “This movement is about addressing long-standing racism and the colonialist regime against Indigenous people and stolen lands. We are protecting our Mother Earth and water and resources and asserting our Indigenous Sovereignty over our unceded territories.”
“Canadians need to realize that we are our own nations being held captive by Canada. We should have access to our own resources, we should have our own vital statistics, everything. This is bigger than just one pipeline, this is about all the indigenous nations and their sovereignty,” explained Mi’kmaq inherent rights holder, Rebecca Moore.
Local Wet’suwet’en solidarity actions of late have included a blockade at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal, the disruption of a visit by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and a sit-in at the office of Halifax MP Andy Fillmore.