“Respect our sovereignty as Indigenous peoples. This is the minimum.”
After spending the night at the B.C. Legislature in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en after RCMP raids and arrests, more people showed their support by joining in a march at 8 a.m. this morning from Centennial Square to the legislature.
The Indigenous-led group has still not received word from Premier John Horgan, who avoided the main legislature doors, where demonstrators remain locked together since noon on Feb. 6, when he left the building last night.
At a 10 a.m. press conference, Indigenous youth spoke on why they feel it’s important to stand with the Wet’suwet’en.
“It is long past time that Canadian politicians no longer perpetuate Canada’s shameful status quo in relation to Indigenous rights and instead respect our sovereignty as Indigenous Peoples. This is the minimum,” reads a statement sent out this morning.
They highlighted that the Coastal Gaslink pipeline is being constructed against article eight of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which B.C. signed into law last year.
Article eight states that “Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture,” and requires that the state must prevent “any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources.”
Around 10:15 a.m., the Indigenous-led group also temporarily blocked the intersection at Government Street and Belleville Street. At 11 a.m., they moved to block the Douglas Street and Fort Street intersection for nearly an hour.
The Victoria Police Department was on the scene, but did not intervene. BC Transit warned of interruptions to their services.
Indigenous allies continue to be under instruction not to speak to the media, in order to focus attention on Indigenous voices. When asked if any Indigenous peoples among those blocking the Douglas Street and Fort Street intersection could comment, the media was directed to go to the legislature as the Indigenous demonstrators present declined to comment.
The RBC at Douglas Street at Fort Street was also temporarily closed, as the group blocked the entrance to the building.
Shortly after the intersection was reopened, the Victoria Police intervened at the occupation of the RBC. A group of around 20 demonstrators — some as young as 12 years old — are currently occupying the outer lobby of the building. The door to the ATM machine room and the bank has been locked from the inside.
Grace Sinets, a 14-year-old among the group occupying the RBC, says she isn’t as nervous as she was at the Jan. 22 sit-in at the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, which ended in the arrest of 12 Indigenous youth and one elder.
“I see a really big double standard between that [and this occupation],” she said. “When Indigenous youth did the same thing that settler-colonial youth are doing right now, they were faced with over 30 armed police officers, whereas we being from settler-colonial backgrounds are faced with no police.”
According to Sinets, there is one security guard and one member of the Victoria Police on the scene.
With files from Mike Graeme.