Indigenous communities rally in support of B.C. pipeline protesters
100 people march and sing in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en right to traditional land
About 100 people marched in Fredericton on Tuesday in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en anti-pipeline protests in B.C.
"They are our brothers and sisters," said Ron Tremblay, grand chief of the Wolastoq Grand Council. "We want to stand side by side and in total support of the Wet'suwet'en traditional government."
In the last few weeks, Wet'suwet'en members, describing themselves as water protectors, set up checkpoints in northern British Columbia to stop Coastal GasLink workers from accessing their traditional territory.
Last week, 14 people were arrested at one of the checkpoints, sparking rallies across the country.
Carrying the Wolastoqey flag and singing traditional songs, demonstrators in Fredericton started at Officers' Square at noon Tuesday and moved north along Saint Anne's Point Boulevard and onto the Westmorland Street Bridge. Escorted by police, demonstrators paused for a few minutes at the Cliffe Street off-ramp, before returning to Officers' Square.
The Westmorland bridge was not closed to traffic, but Saint Anne's Point Boulevard and the Regent Street on-ramp were closed for about two hours.
Tremblay said what's happening in British Columbia has revealed what Indigenous leadership challenges look like, specifically the difference between traditional elders and chiefs elected under the Indian Act, who may have signed agreements with resource extractors.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline project is run by TransCanada Corp., which has said it signed agreements with First Nations along the proposed route, but the hereditary chiefs say those agreements don't apply to traditional territories.
Tremblay said he sees parallels between Indigenous people in the Atlantic region and British Columbia, because both say they never surrendered land to the government.
"Here in the Atlantic provinces ... we just signed peace and friendship treaties and there is no mention of land or resource sharing or surrendering," he said.
"And the traditional governance back in the day were the original signatures of the treaties."
The demonstrations in British Columbia are really not different from what's happening closer to home, Tremblay said.
Traditional leaders have been camping at the site of the proposed Sisson mine for more than a year. Tremblay himself has demonstrated against the Sisson mine project as well as fracking.
"That's why we need to support one another as traditional governments," he said. "As [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau said, he wants to support nation-to-nation relationships … well bands aren't nations."
With files from Hadeel Ibrahim