Gatherings in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders have been taking place across Canada, including in Fredericton on Nov. 23 when about 30 people rallied downtown outside the Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank.
The protesters are decrying the RCMP raids of the peaceful Gidimt’en checkpoint last week. In two days of raids, heavily-armed police arrested more than 20 Indigenous activists, journalists, and allies. The Wet’suwet’en are defending their traditionally unceded territory from the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
The banks targeted by activists in Fredericton are funding the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a project that violates Wet’suwet’en land rights and has been rejected by Wetuwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs. Peaceful blockades, rallies and other actions of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en have been held in Toronto, Saskatoon, Halifax, and other cities.
At the Fredericton rally on unceded Wolastoqiyik territory, people gathered in chilly temperatures. The Hands Off the Wet’suwet’en event was organized by Solidarité Fredericton, outside the banks on the corners of King and Queen streets and Carleton St.
Those gathered together to show their support listened to Wolastoqewi Kci-Sakom spasaqsit possesom (Ron Tremblay, the Wolastoq Grand Chief morningstar burning) speak as well as drumming and singing by Alma Brooks and Bethany Tremblay.
The activists gathered held signs expressing their stance on the Wet’suwet’en raids. Signs read ‘Respect Indigenous Sovereignty’ referring to the violation of Indigenous rights by the pipeline, and ‘Wet’suwet’en Strong’ in support of land defenders. Many signs read ‘Divest Now’ pointing at the investments that major banks have made in projects such as the Coastal GasLink pipeline, investments that go against reconciliation and climate justice, calling upon these banks to divest their funds to more sustainable practices. One activist held a: ‘Hands off Native Land and Journalists,’ sign, decrying the arrests of Indigenous activists and journalists.
The activists handed out flyers explaining that Coastal GasLink/TC Energy is pushing through a 670-kilometer fracked gas pipeline that would carry fracked gas from Dawson Creek, B.C. to the coastal town of Kitimat, where LNG Canada’s processing plant would be located. LNG Canada is the single largest private investment in Canadian history.
“We stand as witnesses to this historic moment when the federal and provincial governments, RCMP, and Coastal GasLink/TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) are openly violating Wet’suwet’en, Canadian, and international law,” stated the protest flyer.
The Wet’suwet’en land defenders have been criminalized for defending their traditional rights to their land and water from the Coastal GasLink pipeline. This criminalization and the violent arrests have been criticized internationally by many groups.
More than 120 organizations signed the Call to Action from the Global Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice which states: “We call on all governments to respect the right of freedom of expression and peaceful protest, and to immediately halt the criminalization of land defenders, whose efforts are central to a climate-just world.”
Other organizations, such as Fridays for the Future, have similarly echoed this statement.
The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution stressing that: “Human rights defenders, including environmental human rights defenders, must be ensured a safe and enabling environment to undertake their work free from hindrance and insecurity, in recognition of their important role in supporting States to fulfil their obligations under the Paris Agreement and to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development…”
Rose He is the student leading the fossil fuel divestment campaign at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.