Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en: Indigenous youth face off with Victoria police after occupying ministry office

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Several young Indigenous protesters were removed by force from the Ministry of Energy and Mines in Victoria Wednesday morning.

The youth, who say they’re standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en in its fight against the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline, were dragged out by police officers after they were allowed to stay overnight.

The video suggests the youth had used locks to make it more difficult to remove them from the hallway they occupied.

It’s hard to tell just how many people were involved, but a livestream video posted to social media shows around two dozen people meeting with a government liaison.

The group arrived Tuesday morning and said they would stay until their demands were met. Those demands are the same as those of Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders, who don’t want the permitted and approved pipeline running through their territory.

“Since the beginning our demand has been for Premier John Horgan to meet with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en,” one protester can be heard telling police.

The premier has put forward Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser to meet face-to-face in Smithers Wednesday afternoon, but it’s not clear yet if hereditary leaders will attend that meeting.

A government liaison addressed the group of Indigenous youth Tuesday night, but the video shows that person walking out of the room in the middle of a conversation.

“You’re turning your back on Indigenous youth,” a woman can be heard saying, followed by a man, who added, “That says a lot,” before the door slammed shut. The liaison was defending the premier, saying the gesture of sending Fraser showed a willingness on the part of the province to negotiate.

This isn’t the first protest in support of the Wet’suwet’en Nation this week. On Monday, protesters blocked access to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal near Victoria by setting up a blockade on Highway 17, and were reportedly in the water in kayaks as well. That same day, demonstrators also forced a number of road closures in Vancouver as they marched to the Port of Vancouver, blocking access there for some time.

Related video: Anti-pipeline protests lead to ferry delays, road closures

Tensions continue to grow on the Wet’suwet’en Nation over the proposed pipeline, where violence has even broken out between protesters and police.

Demonstrators on Monday told NEWS 1130 they were speaking out against RCMP actions, including an exclusion zone that had been set up to keep people out of the pipeline construction area.

The proposed pipeline would span 670-kilometre pipeline from B.C.’s northeast to Kitimat. Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline’s path, but hereditary clan chiefs say the project has no authority without their consent.

Meanwhile, Horgan continues to hold out hope that tensions will be resolved peacefully, adding he’s met with members of the community on the Wet’suwet’en Nation previously.

-With files from Marcella Bernardo and Victor Kaiser, CHNL Kamloops,

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