Meeting with MP results in 'no progress,' says B.C. pipeline protester in Winnipeg
Members of Indigenous Youth for Wet'suwet'en have been in MP Dan Vandal's office since Tuesday
Wet'suwet'en supporters occupying Winnipeg MP Dan Vandal's office finally met with him Friday morning, but one of the protesters said there was "no progress."
Members of Indigenous Youth for Wet'suwet'en in Winnipeg took over the office Tuesday and say they are not leaving until Vandal, also the minister of Northern Affairs, commits to some type of action toward B.C. RCMP, whose officers have started forcibly removing Indigenous people from traditional Wet'suwet'en territory so Coastal GasLink can build a pipeline.
Vandal met with two of the people occupying his offices: Emily Amos and Kakeka Thundersky — both of whom were unhappy with the end result of the meeting.
"I don't feel like we really accomplished anything or got anywhere with him," said Amos.
According to her, there was a lot of finger-pointing during the meeting. She said Vandal said protesters are disrupting the work and family lives of his staff.
"We pointed out the fact that the people in Wet'suwet'en are facing the exact same problem, but at a more escalated level," Amos said.
The Wet'suwet'en and Coastal GasLink first clashed over a year ago, but tensions between the two started rising again just before the new year.
The multibillion-dollar natural gas pipeline has received approval from the B.C. government, and 20 First Nations band councils have signed agreements in support of the pipeline. But Wet'suwet'en hereditary leadership says band councils do not have authority over land outside of the reserve boundaries.
On Thursday night, the first wave of police started removing people from the first of several checkpoints that lead to Wet'suwet'en.
RCMP arrested several individuals for obstruction, they said in a news release. Police officers also removed journalists from the area, a move that drew backlash from organizations such as the Canadian Association of Journalists and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
Meanwhile, Vandal refused to take questions after Friday's meeting. He later tweeted a statement that said the meeting was productive but that the matter is out of his hands.
As I shared at the meeting, this project falls fully under provincial jurisdiction, and no order of government can direct the RCMP and their operations.—@stbstvdan
"This project falls fully under provincial jurisdiction, and no order of government can direct the RCMP and their operations," Vandal said on Twitter.
"I encouraged the group to raise their concerns with the B.C. government, which has taken important steps to work towards a solution."
Rally on Portage
After the Vandal meeting, dozens of people gathered outside RCMP headquarters in Winnipeg to protest the actions of the Mounties in B.C. Other protests were also held throughout the country.
The rally eventually moved to the middle of Portage Avenue, where protesters held hands and formed a circle that blocked off traffic, then marched up and down the street.
"We don't want police brutality.... We don't want any more violence against our people for protecting their homeland," Brielle Beardy-Linklater, one of the rally organizers, said before the event started.
She said the land and water will likely be tainted by the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
"The people who live on the land are the ones who experience the direct impact of resource extraction," said Beardy-Linklater.
With files from Gilbert Rowan