Nfld. & Labrador

Activist group holds St. John's rally in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en nation protesters

St. John's-based community activist group Solidarity with Labrador Land Protectors rallied in support of the Wet'suwet'en nation protesters Saturday.

Protestors blocked traffic on several downtown streets

Rachel Jekanowski is one of the organizers of Saturday's rally. (Stephen Miller/CBC)

Cold temperatures in downtown St. John's Saturday did not deter Solidarity with Labrador Land Protectors from rallying in support of the Wet'suwet'en nation protests.

Rachel Jekanowski, a member of the St. John's-based community activist group, helped organize the rally. The group was formed to support the Labrador Land Protectors group in opposition to the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, but also supports other causes.

"We're trying to bring community members, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, from across the city and across the province together to stand up and say that we defend and support Indigenous sovereignty," Jekanowski said.

The Wet'suwet'en nation protestors are against the construction of a 670 kilometre natural gas pipeline project that would cut across northern B.C., including traditional Wet'suwet'en territories.

Spirits were high despite the frigid temperatures in Bannerman Park during Saturday's rally. Attendees were glad to make it inside the warmth of a nearby space rented out for further speeches and presentations. (Stephen Miller/CBC)

While five of the six Wet'suwet'en nation councils approve of the project, Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs oppose it, saying the councils authority comes only from the Indian Act and applies to their individual reservations.

Government offices, port entries and rail lines have been blockaded across Canada in protest of government and police actions against the Wet'suwet'en protestors.

Of the dozens of protesters in Bannerman Park Saturday, many had homemade banners and signs. Organizers made extras for those who had none. (Stephen Miller/CBC)

"The government continues to send in the RCMP and not respect the governance structures of these nations," Jekanowski said.

"These are independent nations. There should be nation to nation discussions and negotiations around this."

The rally began with speeches and rallying cries as dozens gathered in Bannerman Park on Military Road. 

Once speeches ended, the protesters blocked the road as they marched to a nearby community centre. It took about 15 minutes for the congregation to arrive at the community centre.

Jekanowski said she knows that some people are growing tired of the disruptions caused by the solidarity protests

"We have community members from all over, representatives of many local Indigenous nations, as well as children, elderly folk," Jekanowski said.

"We decided to come together and take the road because we wanted to show that we are here, we are present and we will continue to call for further actions."

Rally attendees briefly blocked several streets in downtown St. John's during the March that followed Saturday's demonstration in Bannerman Park. (Stephen Miller/CBC)

Disruptions to your daily life or work routine can be upsetting, Jekanowski acknowledges, but said there are more important things to think about.

"Non-Indigenous folks should be worrying about what this is doing to Indigenous nations across the country," Jekanowski said.

"Really this should be a moment to think about the truth and reconciliation committee, their recommendations, and think about what non-Indigenous can be doing better."

The protests are continuing across Canada, with additional rail lines blocked in East Vancouver.

Meanwhile, a recent survey, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, found two out of five adult Canadians support the Wet'suwet'en nation solidarity protests.

The survey looked at answers from about 1,500 randomly selected adult Canadians.

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