Category Archives: Protests and Resistance

Activism, Civil Disobedience and Direct Action

Chiefs urge Tiny House Warriors to end pipeline protest camp in B.C.’s central Interior

The Tiny House Warriors camp at Blue River, B.C., about 230 kilometres north of Kamloops in the province’s central Interior. The protest camp is located near the route of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project running from Edmonton to Metro Vancouver. (Brittney McNabb)

Workers on Secwépemc traditional lands have been threatened, chiefs say. Occupiers reject their authority

Chiefs of two First Nations in B.C.’s central Interior are urging anti-pipeline protesters to pack up and leave an uninvited encampment on their traditional territory.

But a leader of the Tiny House Warriors village says they do not recognize the authority of the elected chiefs to make that call.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, Chiefs Shelly Loring of the Simpcw First Nation and Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said the Tiny House Warriors at Blue River have violated Secwépemc laws and customs.

“The interactions that I have witnessed are violent in nature,” Loring said in an interview with CBC Daybreak Kamloops’ Doug Herbert.

“We thought that it was our responsibility to stand up and say this has to stop,” Loring said. “This is enough.”

The chiefs said protest camp members were not invited and do not speak for the two First Nations located near Barriere and Kamloops, along the North and South Thompson Rivers. The Tiny House Warriors village at Blue River is located about 230 kilometres north of Kamloops near the path of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Loring said the Simpcw Nation gave free, prior and informed consent for Trans Mountain to build and operate the new pipeline.

The First Nation operates a company that provides security for the project. Loring said protesters are increasingly aggressive in almost daily interactions with the Indigenous and non-Indigenous security workers.

Simpcw First Nation Chief Shelly Loring (left) and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir issued a statement July 2 saying the Tiny House Warriors are violating the First Nations laws and customs and urging them to vacate their camp at Blue River, B.C. (Simpcw First Nation)

“Some of our individuals that have been threatened. We’ve had some of our individuals that have been spit on. They have been recorded without their permission,” she said.

“There’s been a number of negative interactions that have been occurring and this has been ongoing for the last two years.”

Kanahus Manuel, a resident of the Tiny House Warriors village and its spokesperson, said in a phone interview that a statement will be issued shortly from lawyers for the group in response to what she described as false allegations against the protest camp members.

Manuel said she rejects the chiefs’ call for the Tiny House Warriors to stand down from their protest because the chief-and-council system has been unilaterally imposed by the federal government with no authority over traditional lands outside their own reserve.

Band chiefs’ authority challenged

“Federal Indian Bands are not the rightful or collective title holders.” Manuel said. “Therefore they can’t make decisions regarding our collective territories.”

Earlier this week Kamloops Thompson MLA Peter Milobar said he had met with British Columbia’s solicitor general over concerns about the protest group and its impact on nearby residents and businesses.

Loring said the First Nation shares concerns expressed by the protesters for the safety of women and girls in the communities affected by the pipeline construction boom. However, the Tiny House protesters have not spoken with her about the situation.

Among 19 women from the Simpcw First Nation are working on the Trans Mountain project, she said, “they report positive experiences — and no serious incidents.”

On Thursday the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the last remaining court challenge to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, refusing to hear an appeal from several First Nations against the project.

Loring said she is now concerned that more protesters will be coming from across the country to join the Tiny House camp.

The Tiny House Warriors pipeline protesters set up camps at Blue River two years ago to try to stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project. (Simpcw First Nation)

By: CBC News · Posted: Jul 02, 2020

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Controversial bill targeting rail blockade protesters soon to be Alberta law

Around 20 demonstrators set up a blockade on a CN Rail line west of Edmonton. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

Violators could face fines up to $25,000 and six months in jail

To some, it’s a bill that will enforce the rule of law, protect public safety and stop protesters from harming the economy.

To others, the Alberta government’s Bill 1 is an affront to democratic rights, an authoritarian overreach and a threat to Indigenous Peoples’ way of life.

The controversial Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, Premier Jason Kenney’s signature legislation to start the current session, passed third reading in the legislature on Thursday.

Government house leader Jason Nixon hopes it will receive the lieutenant-governor’s royal assent Friday, immediately making it law.

Introduced in February, the bill allows hefty penalties against any person or company found to have blocked, damaged or entered without reason any “essential infrastructure.”

The list of possible sites is lengthy and includes pipelines, rail lines, highways, oil sites, telecommunications equipment, radio towers, electrical lines, dams, farms and more, on public or private land.

Violators can be fined up to $25,000, sentenced to six months in jail, or both. Corporations that break the law can be fined up to $200,000. Each day they block or damage a site is considered a new offence.

Kenney introduced the legislation against the backdrop of protests across Canada, in which groups blockaded rail lines, commuter train routes and roadways in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline through their territory in northern B.C.

“When we brought this in, it was at a time of turmoil in Canada,” Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said in the legislature Thursday. “We had lawlessness across this country, where critical infrastructure was being obstructed. That is simply unacceptable. Here in the province of Alberta we expect the rule of law to be upheld.”

A CN Rail line in west Edmonton was the site of one such blockade in February.

The blockades snarled the movement of goods and passengers across the country, prompting layoffs and concerns about the food supply.

MLAs call protesters ‘spoiled kids’

After a nearly three-month delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the bill returned to the legislature this week for debate.

United Conservative Party MLAs called the protesters “ecoterrorists” and “spoiled kids,” saying some participants joined blockades because they thought it was a cool thing to do with their friends and post about on social media.

Those characterizations make Alison McIntosh cringe. The Climate Justice Edmonton organizer said freezing on a winter’s day while being harassed by counter-protesters isn’t “fun.”

She said the politicians’ comments are demeaning and dismissive of protesters’ legitimate concerns about the environment and economic diversification.

“It shows a lot of disregard for people who are their constituents — the people they purport to be looking out for,” said McIntosh, 28. “And it really highlights that we’re not the ones they’re considering when they pass legislation like Bill 1.”

Although it’s hard to tell until pandemic public health restrictions ease, Bill 1 could substantially change grassroots protests in Alberta, McIntosh said.

The organization can’t afford to pay such penalties if protesters are convicted, she said.

“It’s really troubling, but we’re creative. We know that there’s ways we can get our message across,” she said.

David Khan, leader of the Alberta Liberal party and a constitutional and Indigenous rights lawyer, said Thursday the new law could interfere with Indigenous Peoples’ rights to hunt, fish or gather on traditional land.

He calls the law draconian, legally dubious and a piece of political theatre designed to trivialize the tensions between oil and gas development, Indigenous rights and the environment.

In addition to potentially running afoul of citizens’ rights to free expression and association, Khan thinks the law could jeopardize Alberta’s international reputation as an ethical and democratic source of oil.

When asked for comment on Thursday, the Assembly of First Nations pointed to a statement issued in February by Alberta Regional Chief Marlene Poitras urging the premier to withdraw the bill.

“Allowing the bill to pass will serve to erode individual rights, unfairly target Indigenous Peoples, and has no place in a democratic society,” she said at the time.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said the broadness of the law could allow the government to potentially shut down political demonstrations at the legislature or interfere with a strike picket line.

He said the federation will launch a constitutional challenge.

“The UCP is trying to frame Bill 1 as a patriotic defence of our oil and gas industry,” he said Thursday. “But if you’re patriotic, this is actually the last piece of legislation you should be supporting because it is fundamentally undemocratic.”

NDP justice critic Kathleen Ganley attempted to introduce amendments to Bill 1 this week, which were voted down by the United Conservative Party.

Government says it supports legal protest

The Opposition NDP also raised concerns the bill is too far reaching.

The party’s legal analysis found the language is so broad, it could be interpreted to mean that just being on public land or walking down a highway or next to a rail line could be illegal, justice critic Kathleen Ganley said in the legislature Thursday.

Such strict application of the law could be especially problematic given the large fines allowed, she said.

Central Peace-Notley UCP MLA Todd Loewen said in the legislature her concerns were “ridiculous.”

The high fines are designed to help perpetrators understand the drastic economic consequences of interfering with industries, he said.

Nixon said stopping protests or demonstrations is not their goal.

“You have a right to protest and express yourself in democracy and this government will always fight to make sure that happens,” he said.

“You do not have a right while you’re protesting to stopping trains from moving and products from getting to market, causing companies to go bankrupt, or to have to suspend or fire or layoff employees because your products can’t get to market.”

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As Quebec rail blockades come down, supporters demand Indigenous rights be respected

After dismantling the rail blockade, Mohawks from Kahnawake built a new barricade in a green space near Montreal’s Mercier Bridge on Thursday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Encampments blocking lines through Kahnawake, Listiguj had been in place since early February

The remaining blockades halting rail traffic in Quebec were taken down Thursday, putting an end to three weeks of protest in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in British Columbia.

Supporters in Kahnawake, a Mohawk territory on Montreal’s South Shore, and in Listiguj, where Mi’kmaq activists had blocked a rail line that connects the Gaspé Peninsula with New Brunswick, dismantled their encampments Thursday afternoon.

But they stressed their fight isn’t over.

In Kahnawake, people marched through the streets, temporarily blocking traffic, with a banner that read: “Protect our future. No more pipelines.”

Roxann Whitebean, a filmmaker who lives in Kahnawake, said the decision to take down the blockade on a CP Rail line should be seen as a message of “good faith to all of Canada.”

“Depending on how Canada moves forward, we are ready to react and we will ensure that our rights and lands will no longer be violated. We will not back down until these standards are met,” she said.

Roxann Whitebean, a Mohawk writer and filmmaker, addressed reporters in the middle of the highway. She said Indigenous rights must be respected.

The encampment was relocated to a green space near the Mercier Bridge, a heavily trafficked connection between Montreal and the city’s South Shore.

“We want the fire to be visible for every commuter that crosses the Mercier Bridge, to show that we are here to stay for as long as the Wet’suwet’en need us,” said Whitebean.

“We will be closely monitoring the situation in Wet’suwet’en as well other Indigenous communities.”

The blockade in Listuguj, Que., was taken down soon after. Raquel Barnaby, a spokesperson for Mi’kmaq activists, said their goals had been met.

“Our goals were for the RCMP to back away from the Wet and for hereditary chiefs to be at the table,” she said. “We just want to end it on a positive note.”

Supporters in Listiguj took down their encampment Thursday. (Isabelle Larose/Radio-Canada)

Other blockades across Canada have already come down.

Over the weekend, Wet’suwet’en chiefs and representatives of the federal and B.C. governments announced they had reached a draft agreement concerning some of the issues involved in an ongoing dispute over a pipeline that would run through traditional land.

Quebec Premier François Legault’s government had expressed growing impatience with the Kahnawake blockade, arguing it was hurting the province’s economy.

Injunctions were obtained against both barricades, but never enforced.

Legault told reporters last week Quebec provincial police hadn’t moved in because there are AK-47s in Kahnawake. The comment was decried as “reckless” by leaders in the Mohawk community.

After the blockades came down, the premier said on Twitter the “negative effects that these blockades had, particularly on public transport users & on the economy, are deplorable. Solutions must be found so that it does not happen again.”

Highway 132 near the Mercier Bridge was briefly blocked after the barricade in Kahnawake was dismantled. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

In a statement on its website, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake said Thursday the blockade was a “sincere and peaceful expression of support” for Wet’suwet’en chiefs.

“Even in 2020 it seems that it takes a crisis for governments to truly engage,” said Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton.

“We have been advocating for meaningful dialogue in the interest of peace and safety for all people.”

Supporters of the blockade in Kahnawake say they want Indigenous rights to be respected. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

By: Benjamin Shingler · CBC News · Posted: Mar 05, 2020

[SOURCE]

Indigenous youth arrested for refusing to leave B.C. legislature

Victoria police say five Indigenous youth were arrested Wednesday night for refusing to leave the B.C. legislature: (CTV News)

VICTORIA — An intense scene played out on the lawns of the B.C. legislature late Wednesday night as police removed five Indigenous demonstrators from inside the government building.

Victoria Police confirm five Indigenous youth demonstrators were arrested for mischief after they refused to leave a planned meeting with Indigenous relations minister Scott Fraser.

The Indigenous youth, who have been occupying B.C.’s legislature for weeks, were invited in for a meeting with Fraser when they allegedly demanded he condemn the Costal GasLink pipeline project that crosses through the Wet’suwet’en First Nation territory in northern B.C.

When demands were not met, the demonstrators refused to leave.

“Our lives are more valuable than an economic bottom line which is why we are occupying this office currently,” said Indigenous youth leader Ta’kaiya Blaney on a live stream she posted to social media Wednesday night.

“We had a good conversation, but we know these meetings cannot set the tone for a history, and ongoing history, of colonization in this country.”

Victoria police say five Indigenous youth were arrested Wednesday night for refusing to leave the B.C. legislature: (CTV News)

Victoria Police say they arrested five demonstrators at around 9 P.M. Wednesday. Police say that because Wet’suwet’en supporters crowded outside of the legislature, it took hours to get everyone out of the building.

“The protesters actively obstructed officers,” said Bowen Osoko, VicPD communications office.

“With the large crowd, it took several hours for our officers to be able safely transport the protesters to VicPD Headquarters,” he said. “Officers who were responding to the scene were surrounded by over 100 protesters and were unable to respond to emergency calls for service.”

Five Indigenous youth were arrested by Victoria police for refusing to leave the B.C. legislature: (CTV News)

The activists were transported to cells and released on conditions not to return to the legislature grounds.

A mischief investigation continues. According to police, no one was injured.

By Scott Cunningham, CTV News, published on March 5, 2020

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Blockades and bonfires — Warriors stand with Wet’suwet’en chiefs

Before Trudeau called for an end to national protests, Winnipeg’s Urban Warrior Alliance blockaded Highway 75 in support of community engaged in years-long dispute

Pipeline actions ramp up

Several people were arrested Monday when Ontario Provincial Police broke up a railway blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in the latest escalation of a conflict that began more than a year ago in British Columbia.

Since January 2019, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and community members have been resisting the construction of a natural gas pipeline through their traditional territory.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is part of a $6.6 billion project to bring natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to the coast and has been approved by the provincial and federal governments. Five elected Wet’suwet’en band councils are also in support.

But the hereditary chiefs have consistently opposed the construction and set up blockades to stop work from going forward in the winter of 2019. The project has also been panned by B.C.’s human rights commission and the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination.

A report published by the Guardian late last year said authorities were prepared to use lethal force against the land defenders.

After the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) moved to act on an injunction requiring the Wet’suwet’en to stand down earlier this year, solidarity demonstrations and blockades popped up around the country, including the Tyendinaga action that began over two weeks ago. In Manitoba, demonstrators have shut down Portage Avenue several times — including twice in front of the Manitoba RCMP headquarters and a rush hour rally that saw some 400 people shut down the Portage and Main intersection.

A blockade of the CN and Via Rail tracks near Headingly, Man., lasted less than 24 hours before a CN injunction was quickly approved by the courts. On Feb. 17, members of the Urban Warrior Alliance blockaded Highway 75 for several hours. Following Monday’s arrests, another series of solidarity actions sprang up, including blockades of commuter rail lines in Ontario and the second rally outside Manitoba’s Mountie headquarters. 

Manitoban columnist Cam Cannon attended the Feb. 17 highway blockade and filed the following report.

The air is rich with the smoke of a nearby bonfire.

Indigenous warriors and land defenders, clad in camouflage, are holding an emergency meeting in a large black pickup truck parked on the side of Highway 75, where a blockade of both the CN railway and the southbound lanes of the highway has been set up.

All traffic is being allowed through at the moment — everybody around the fire is in disbelief at what just happened.

Moments earlier, as Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) liaison officers dressed in plain clothes visited the blockade — informing the land defenders that the officers were there not only to protect the public, but to protect the land defenders as well — a large tractor trailer pushed through the blockade, swerving through at speed as land defenders scrambled to stop the driver.

The truck sped away, followed shortly after by an RCMP vehicle.

A land defender’s arm was “jarred” during the incident, according to Harrison Powder, a land defender with the Urban Warrior Alliance — one of Winnipeg’s warrior societies, an organization of Indigenous militants.

Land defenders completely stop all traffic in retaliation — including passenger vehicles, which earlier in the day had been allowed through while only commercial trucks were being held up.

They hold the line for about 10 more minutes before holding an emergency meeting away from their allies and the media.

The truck breaking through the blockade was only one of three separate incidents of what Black Turtle, a warrior with the Urban Warrior Alliance, described as “violence” against the land defenders during the day, including an individual who exited his vehicle to confront blockaders.

“That’s never happened before,” she said, comparing the incident to previous demonstrations.

“It’s like the temperament in some of the people has gotten a lot worse than it used to be. The anger level is higher, I guess the stakes are higher.”

“In eight years of protesting — like real heavy protesting as a land defender, doing lots of other kinds of protests, blocking highways, rail lines — this has maybe happened maybe once and today we’ve had three incidents of violence on this highway,” she said.

Overall, the attitude toward the blockade from drivers can be described as tense. People could be heard yelling obscenities from their cars with some regularity, though a few dropped off snacks as they passed through.

The blockade — established as part of a wave of ongoing peaceful protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk nations — was established at noon.

The RCMP were on the scene minutes later and maintained a presence for the rest of the day. Within a few hours, a court injunction was served to land defenders by RCMP officers — which they promptly threw to the wind.

“I’m kind of surprised how fast it was, it seems a little not normal,” said Powder, noting it has taken up to eight hours to be served with an injunction at previous protests.

“They’ve been getting these injunctions now in a matter of three, four hours,” he said.

“Once a blockade is going up across Canada — because it happened in Toronto, too — they had a blockade and were served within four, five hours.”

The blockade came down after 5 p.m. Amidst rising tensions over the blockades that have shuttered parts of the Canadian economy, there has been increased pressure from both the police and civilians to take down the blockades.

Although some injunctions had gone unenforced for weeks before this weekend, a blockade just south of Montreal, Que., was dismantled on Feb. 21 upon the arrival of police in riot gear.

At a press conference the same day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that RCMP were scaling back from Wet’suwet’en and called for all the blockades across the country, now in their third week, to come down and for the rule of law to be upheld.

A few days prior, on Feb. 19, counter-protesters — among them, members of far-right groups and movements including Yellow Vests Canada, United We Roll and Wexit, according to Yellow Vests Canada Exposed, a group that monitors the far right in Canada — dismantled a blockade outside of Edmonton, Alta.

The vigilante action was met with support on Twitter in a now-deleted tweet from Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Peter MacKay.

With rising antagonism from both the Canadian government and from Canadians themselves, Black Turtle — who said she attended the blockade out of love and a want to see reconciliation between the country and the Indigenous populations — questioned how far away that may still be.

“I think that we’re the furthest from reconciliation at this point in time than we’ve been in for a very long time,” she said.

“I think it was starting to come into that direction until this last situation occurred. I’d say that reconciliation is dead at this point.”

“It is completely dead.”

This article was first published in The Manitoban on February 25, 2020. 

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