Native Students Union call on UVic to take stance in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en First Nation

NSU among hundreds in demonstration at B.C. Legislature

The Native Students Union takes part in demonstration at B.C. Legislature. Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief.

Hundreds gathered on Tuesday, Jan. 8 in front of the British Columbia Parliament buildings to protest RCMP officers forcing members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation off their traditional territories to enable the construction of a gas pipeline. The RCMP have arrested up to 14 people at time of writing, enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction that allows TransCanada Coastal GasLink pipeline workers through a Unist’ot’en camp and a Gitdimt’en camp on Wet’suwet’en First Nation lands. This area is located south of the northern B.C. towns of Houston and Smithers.

The crowd — estimated to be between 500-700 people — gathers in front of the B.C. Legislature. Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief.

In over 30 cities across Canada including Vancouver and Toronto, protesters rallied in solidarity with First Nations groups. The crowd in Victoria gathered to call upon both provincial and federal governments to keep their promises of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada, and to honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — a document that has been endorsed by the Canadian government on numerous occasions.  

Victoria Police estimated the crowd in Victoria to be around 500, while one of the event’s organizers estimated as many as 600-700 people.

The crowd moved from the B.C. Parliament Buildings and made their way down Belleville Street, up Douglas Street, and eventually turned on Fort Street to gather in front of MLA Carole James’s constituency office. The protest — which lasted approximately three and a half hours — consisted of speeches, chants, singing, and drumming.

Spotted in the crowd were B.C. Green Party MLAs Sonia Furstenau and Adam Olsen, musician and activist Luke Wallace, and members of the UVic Native Students Union.

“This is a serious affront to all Indigenous peoples, and if the University of Victoria is committed to building relationships with Indigenous peoples, we expect UVic to take a public stance in support of the Unist’ot’en.”

“The Native Student’s Union fully supports the Unist’ot’en. We strongly condemn the actions taken by the RCMP and all those responsible, including the provincial government,” said Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, a representative of the Native Students Union.

“This is a serious affront to all Indigenous peoples, and if the University of Victoria is committed to building relationships with Indigenous peoples, we expect UVic to take a public stance in support of the Unist’ot’en.”

On Monday, Jan. 14, the University of Victoria Students’ Union will be hosting an emergency Board of Directors meeting, where representatives from advocacy groups will discuss ways of financially supporting the Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en camps and Wet’suwet’en people and communicate to UVic about their stance.

This article will be updated with information about the time and whereabouts of the emergency Board Meeting when it becomes known.

With files from Carina Pogoler, Senior Editorial Assistant.

A protester poses for a photo as the crowd makes its way down Fort Street towards Carole James’s office. Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief.

Protesters stand in front of Police cars near Carole James’s Constituency Office. Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief.

A protester stands in front of a K&S Petroleum truck that is stopped in the street where the crowd is walking. Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief.

Protesters stand for a photo with their signs. They read: “Canada Brazil of the North?” and “Wrong way to reconciliation.” Photo by Carina Pogoler, Senior Editorial Assistant.

The crowd moves up Douglas Street, whales and all. Photo by Carina Pogoler, Senior Editorial Assistant.

A singing and drumming circle occurs on the street in front of the Legislature. Photo by Carina Pogoler, Senior Editorial Assistant.

Young protesters. Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief.

“RCMP OFF UNIST’OT’EN LAND,” reads the sign. Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief.

The Native Students Union make their way along the B.C. Legislature precinct. Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief.

“I may have been born in Canada, but this is not my Native land. Solidarity with Unist’ot’en,” reads the sign. Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief.

 

 

 

 

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