Around 150 activists and citizens of Kanesatake gathered by the steps of Montreal’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) offices in Westmount on Feb. 2 to demonstrate against pipeline expansion projects in northern British Columbia’s (BC) Wet’suwet’en Nation. The demonstration started early in the morning in Kanesatake territory as a rolling blockade and slowly made its way to the RCMP offices, where the larger protest took place. The event was co-organized by Extinction Rebellion (XR) Quebec’s McGill and Concordia chapters and La planète s’invite à l’Université.
In a show of solidarity with Wet’suwet’en, activists held up flags and signs demanding a peaceful termination of the TransCanada Coastal Gaslink pipeline project. Some even carried eviction notices demanding RCMP officers to withdraw from Wet’suwet’en region, condemning their presence as an “illegal invasion of unceded territory.”
In a scathing speech, Marlene Hale, a member of the Wet’suwet’en Frog Clan, denounced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s lack of action against pipeline construction in the region.
“You’re a father, [and] you’re going to be a grandfather [soon]—what are you going to say to your children ten years down the line?” Hale said. “What are you going to say to your children in the future of what you did and why you couldn’t stop this when you had that chance? Why did you let those pipelines go through when you could have stopped them? You can still make this right.”
Alex Tyrell, leader of the Green Party of Quebec and candidate for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada, was among the protestors. He advised activists of the importance of having a critical perspective on federal politics and recounted his experience visiting Wet’suwet’en.
“I visited the Wet’suwet’en camp last summer and […] it’s really a beautiful place [with] pristine water [but] there’s all these pipelines that are going through,” Tyrell said. “People are trying to do everything that they can to resist […] so I think that it’s really important that all Canadians and beyond stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en.”
Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail, a member of the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, gave a heartfelt speech on the consequences of land exploitation by international corporations. She spoke about the destruction of natural resources by the Victor Diamond Mine near her hometown of Attawapiskat and its impact on community members’ traditional way of life.
“I’ve seen what they have done to […] the lands that we grew up on,” Wabano-Iahtail said. “The lands where we went trapping, […] on the river fishing, the berries that we picked, the medicine that we used. What affects one part affects the whole. You cannot do those things and it is a violation of our sacred laws.”
Wabano-Iahtail emphasized that it is Indigenous peoples’ sacred duty to protect traditional lands from exploitation and to safeguard natural resources for future generations.
“When you disrespect the land, you disrespect your children, your grandchildren and those yet unborn,” Wabano-Iahtail said. “You have not upheld your bundle. No amount of money can take you when you are connected with your sacred spirit being, with your authentic self, when you know your original laws.”
Protests occurring this week include a sit-in at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s local constituency office, and a blockade across a railway owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway.