First Nation supporters march to Horgan’s MLA office

Dozens marched across the Greater Victoria community of Langford to support the Wet’suwet’en people

Upwards of 30 people made their way to Premier John Horgan’s MLA office in Langford Wednesday morning, with organizers calling the Indigenous/women-led action a way to show solidarity with First Nation members in the B.C. north.

The action is in support of Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en First Nations on Wet’suwet’en traditional lands near Houston, B.C.

On Jan. 7, RCMP arrested 14 people at the Gidimt’en camp after being granted an interim injunction by a B.C. Supreme Court judge to remove the First Nations camps that were blocking access to a Coastal GasLink pipeline construction site.

Three days later, a tentative agreement was reached between hereditary leaders of the Wet’suwe’ten First Nation and RCMP saying First Nations members will abide by the injunction if RCMP agree to leave a nearby Unist’ot’en healing camp be.

Hereditary leaders said the agreement was made to ensure the safety of residents at the camp.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en strike tentative deal with RCMP allowing access to protect camp

The overarching theme of the action in Langford was to express “discontent with Canada’s conduct, hold the RCMP to account for ongoing colonial violence toward the Wet’suwet’en people and their allies, and call on Premier John Horgan and the B.C. government to respect ‘anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” according to organizers.

The group started at the Tim Horton’s on McCallum Road and marched to the West Shore RCMP detachment on Highway 14 where they gathered and addressed officers through a megaphone, chanting “RCMP stand down.”

West Shore RCMP said the demonstrators “disrupted community policing operations” and blocked public access to the building. RCMP said community volunteers for the Speedwatch Program were unable to leave the detachment and a 79-year-old volunteer had to be escorted past the demonstration by police officers for a meeting inside the building.

Emergency operations were not affected.

“The RCMP fully support the right to peaceful and safe protest,” said Cpl. Chris Dovell of West Shore RCMP. “But businesses and community volunteers also have the right to conduct meetings.”

The group then made its way down Goldstream Avenue towards Horgan’s office, blocking intersections at Veteran’s Memorial Parkway and Jacklin Road.

Traffic moved slowly behind the group as they drummed and chanted things like “we stand with Unist’ot’en” and “John Horgan stand down.”

Vehicles held up at the intersections honked angrily, telling the group the get off the road while other vehicles driving by honked in support.

According to organizers, this is one of dozens of actions across North America in response to a frontline call-out for rolling solidarity actions in support of Wet’suwet’en sovereignty.

READ MORE: Hundreds rally in Victoria for Wet’suwet’en pipeline protesters

“We’re not protesting,” said organizer Serena Baker. “We’re here standing in support and solidarity with people who weren’t protesting, who weren’t doing anything but living life in their home that they’ve occupied for numerous years.”

An individual named Dakota Smith spoke in front of Horgan’s office and said the group is getting louder and trying to be heard but said he does not feel heard when listening to members of the government speak.

“We want everyone to be aware of what’s going on and the atrocities that the RCMP are committing there,” Smith said.

An Indigenous rights activist from Alert Bay and elder who’s given name is Tsastilqualus said the main focus on Wednesday morning was to stand in support with Unist’ot’en. She said “police are being used to protect corporations and not the people.”

“That’s very shameful of this government talking reconciliation one minute and then sending the troops in the same breath,” Tsastilqualus said. “What’s happening up in that territory…it’s criminal…it’s no different for 150 years now.”

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(Shalu Mehta/News staff)

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