Yellowknife residents join in country-wide protest for Indigenous rights

The protest which included about 30 people in Yellowknife was part of country-wide demonstrations by supporters of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in British Columbia.

'What we saw is an act of terrorism by Canada on Indigenous peoples,' says Yellowknife resident

Some 30 demonstrators gathered in downtown Yellowknife on Tuesday protesting the treatment of Indigenous peoples in the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in B.C. (Michael Hugall/CBC)

About 30 protesters in Yellowknife joined Canada-wide demonstrations Tuesday, supporting a First Nation in B.C. that continues to bar a pipeline company from accessing its territory. 

"This is not what reconciliation looks like, and we have a right to use our voices, live our gifts and ensure that accountability takes place," said Kiera Dawn Kolson, the rally's organizer outside of Liberal MP Michael McLeod's office .

Monday, RCMP in British Columbia arrested 14 people and broke down a fortified checkpoint at the Gidimt'en camp on a forest service road to enforce a court injunction that would grant the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project access to the road and a bridge. 

Indigenous groups across Canada will continue to show their support for their Pacific brothers and sisters, Kolson said.

"We're with you, we're here in solidarity. We love you," she said. "You're not alone and what you're doing is so important and so necessary and we just love you so much. 

"We're supposed to have these human rights [laws] in place to protect the people but here's a case where [the law is] being utilized to protect corporate interest."   

Kiera Dawn Kolson helped organize a rally outside of Liberal MP Michael McLeod's office in downtown Yellowknife on Tuesday. Kolson and some 30 demonstrators protested the actions of RCMP against the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in B.C. (Randall Mackenzie/CBC)

What started as a loud rally in nearly -30 C moved inside the building where McLeod's office is located and demonstrators posted signs on the office doors. 

The signs call for the federal government to protect Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples. The declaration states Indigenous people shall not be forcibly removed from their land or territories.

The "militarized" police presence near the First Nation in B.C., breaks that declaration, said Deneze Nakehk'o, a Yellowknife resident who is Dene.  

"What we saw is an act of terrorism by Canada on Indigenous peoples," said Nakehk'o. "Chalk it up to reconciliation 2019.  That's what it looks like now, armed military police going in on traditional territory of Indigenous people, to remove them from traditional territory for fracking a pipeline."

Deneze Nakehk’o says the actions of British Columbia RCMP sets a dangerous precedent going forward for all Indigenous peoples. (Randall Mackenzie/CBC)

Nakehk'o added this decision goes against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promises to protect the rights of Indigenous people and create a more environmentally-friendly country.

"This sets a precedent that oil companies can rely on RCMP to push their agenda for more pipelines and more gas [projects]," he said. 

McLeod was not present during the protest. He was in Hay River, N.W.T., announcing an $8.9-million fish plant. But a representative from McLeod's office said he does not oppose the protest and that the office is meant "for the people."