British Columbia

Protesters block ports, streets and rails in support of Wet'suwet'en in B.C.

Protesters across British Columbia have blocked trains, access to ports and some streets in support of hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Nation in their bid to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline in their traditional territories.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority moves against protesters blocking access with court injunction

Wet'suwet'en supporters in Vancouver moved their protest Sunday afternoon from city hall to nearby Cambie Street and Broadway, blocking the intersection. (Franny Karlinsky/CBC)

Protesters across British Columbia have blocked trains, access to ports and some streets in support of hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Nation in their bid to halt construction of a natural gas pipeline in their traditional territories in northern B.C.

Sunday's protests follow the arrests of more than 20 people that began last week after police began enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction against Wet'suwet'en Nation members who are blocking access to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.

Those arrested near the camps are accused of breaching a court injunction that was supposed to clear the way for construction of the 670-kilometre pipeline project, part of which crosses Wet'suwet'en traditional territory near Smithers, B.C., located more than 1,100 kilometres northwest of Vancouver.

In response, First Nations and other organizers have been rallying in support of the hereditary chiefs across Canada and particularly B.C.— disrupting traffic and halting transportation in key locations. 

About a dozen protesters have blocked access to the port in Delta, B.C., Sunday morning. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Protests at ports, injunction served 

Crowds of Wet'suwet'en supporters blocked access to two ports in the Vancouver area — multiple entrances to the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Delta. The protestors were served with a court injunction ordering them to stop blocking access to the ports late Sunday.

The injunction, granted by the Supreme Court of B.C., says they must leave Vancouver Fraser Port Authority lands and stop blockading the ports' access points.

"The disruption to port operations over the past four days has had a significant impact on Canadians across the country," said Danielle Jang, a media spokesperson for the port authority, in an emailed statement. 

"While we respect the right to a peaceful protest ... We have been forced to take steps through a court order to restore port operations."

Natalie Knight, an organizer, says protestors plan to stay. "We are here for the long-haul," she said. 

"The point of the blockade is to disrupt the money that is coming in and out of the port, and send a clear message that business as usual cannot keep going on if Indigenous people are under attack." 

Province-wide movement

Hundreds of people also gathered at Vancouver City Hall to voice their support for the Wet'suwet'en Sunday afternoon. The rally then moved to the nearby intersection of Cambie Street and West Broadway, blocking traffic.

CN Rail says since Saturday afternoon about 15 Wet'suwet'en supporters have been blocking its trains between Prince Rupert and Prince George, near New Hazelton, B.C., impeding 33 trains from delivering their cargo. RCMP estimate that the crowds grew to 30 people at some points. 

Sean Finn, CN's executive vice president and chief legal officer, says about 25 trains travel the single-track rail line each day, and the company is still recovering from stoppages caused by a landslide in the Fraser Canyon last week. 

"Obviously we recognize the right for our First Nation partners to protest," Finn said. 

"The only issue we have is that blocking our track is not the best way probably to get their message across. And it impacts all Canadians and has a major impact on the economy going forward."

In Toronto, an inner city freight train line was also blocked by protesters carrying signs in support of the hereditary chiefs in B.C.

Indigenous youth and supporters continue to camp overnight on the front steps of the B.C. legislature in Victoria.

Protesters blocked Victoria's downtown Johnson Street bridge Saturday and other groups of protesters continue their presence at railway lines in Ontario.

Wet'suwet'en supporter Kolin Sutherland-Wilson said people intend to camp on the steps while the RCMP stays in Wet'suwet'en territory.

"We're here as long as the [RCMP] raid is happening,'' he said.

The supporters at the legislature have lit a ceremonial fire in a steel pit on the front steps and are sleeping at the entrance reserved for dignitaries, including the lieutenant governor. B.C.'s legislature is set to resume sitting Tuesday.

Sutherland-Wilson said the fire is for sacred purposes and is being monitored for safety.

"If all this granite catches on fire, I'll be awfully surprised,'' he said.

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

With files from The Canadian Press