Manitoba

'We don't give consent': Portage and Main round dance shows solidarity for Wet'suwet'en in pipeline battle

Supporters of the Wet'suwet'en Nation say Costal GasLink has no authority to build a pipeline in northern B.C. without consent from the hereditary clan chiefs.

Hereditary chiefs oppose pipeline slated to go through traditional Wet'suwet'en territory in B.C.

More than 100 people turned out for a round dance at the iconic corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street in Winnipeg on Friday to show solidarity for the Wet'suwet'en people, who are fighting a 670-kilometre pipeline slated to go through traditional Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Despite frigid weather, more than 100 people turned out for a round dance at the iconic corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street in Winnipeg Friday afternoon to show solidarity for the Wet'suwet'en people, who are fighting a 670-kilometre pipeline slated to go through traditional Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C.

The pipeline's proposed route is opposed by most of the nation's hereditary chiefs, who are demanding the B.C. government suspend all permits for the Coastal GasLink pipeline effective immediately, saying there will be no access to their territory without their consent.

Winnipegger Clayton Swan, who was among the Wet'suwet'en supporters at Friday's round dance, says the world is watching what is happening on Canadian soil.

"It's a battle of understanding of what real histories are," said Swan, who brought his hand drum to the round dance.

"Canada has only been around for so long. The history these people are standing for, and we are standing with them, goes a long way back, and that is what is needed to be understood."

Carrying a red and black painted sign reading "no access without consent," Lisa Currier joined the round dance as it spilled onto the street.

Currier, from northern Manitoba, condemns Coastal GasLink's move to continue with construction, despite the objection of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and many other First Nations across the country.

"All First Nations lands are the major corridors for all these pipelines. And we don't give consent," she said.

Earlier this week, Coastal GasLink posted an injunction order giving opponents to its pipeline project in 72 hours to clear the way to its work site. Opponents of the project say it requires the approval of Wet'suwet'en hereditary leadership. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The conflict between the Wet'suwet'en and Coastal GasLink first came to a head over a year ago, and tensions are once again on the rise.

After a B.C. judge issued an interlocutory injunction in late December saying pipeline opponents could not block Coastal GasLink from accessing the area where the company plans to build the pipeline, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs sent an eviction notice to Coastal GasLink, ordering its staff and contractors to leave the territory.

Coastal GasLink has signed benefit agreements with 20 band council governments along the route of the project, but Wet'suwet'en hereditary leadership says band councils do not have authority over land outside of the reserve boundaries.

Earlier this week, the natural gas pipeline company posted an injunction order giving opponents to its pipeline project 72 hours to clear the way to its work site. If they don't remove the obstructions themselves, the court order says Costal GasLink  is at liberty to remove any obstructions.

Currier, who was an organizer with the Idle No More movement, says the corporation needs to listen to the grassroots.

"I heard some Indian Act chiefs have given consent. But that is not the consent of the grassroots people or the traditional people of our territories," she said.

"And we would like to remind Canadian citizens you are still guests here and we are still your hosts."

Lisa Currier was among more than 100 people turned out for a round dance at the iconic corner of Portage Avenue and Main Street in Winnipeg on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, to show solidarity for the Wet'suwet'en people, who are fighting a 670-kilometre pipeline slated to go through traditional Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C. (Marianne Klowak/CBC)

Ninoondawh Richard, who was also at Friday's round dance, says he wanted to make a stand against what he described as desecrating sacred indigenous land for profit.

"This company doesn't understand what our land means, or the water, or future generations. We are taking action today in solidarity with other rallies across the country."

Swan says the Earth is being pillaged, and there is a price to be paid for that.

"We have to live for tomorrow too, not just today. We can't be trying to cash in everything all at once," he said.

"We have to maintain, manage things properly with flow, with the Earth. Not against it."

With files from Chantelle Bellrichard and The Canadian Press

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