Over 1,000 protesters march in downtown Toronto in support of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs

More than 1,000 thousand people marched through downtown Toronto streets on Monday to show support for Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in their fight against a pipeline in northern B.C.

'When justice fails, block the rails, shut Canada down,' protesters chanted at Queen's Park

More than 1,000 people spent part of Family Day in Toronto to show their support for the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in northern B.C. (CBC)

More than 1,000 thousand people marched through downtown Toronto streets on Monday to show support for Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in their fight against a pipeline project in northern B.C.

The protesters walked more than four kilometres from Christie Pits Park to Queen's Park, carrying placards, singing, chanting slogans, and drumming.

They stopped at certain well-known intersections downtown to make sure their message was heard.

"When justice fails, block the rails, shut Canada down," they chanted at Queen's Park.

The march went from Bloor Street West and Christie Street, along Bloor Street downtown, then south on Bay Street to College Street, then west to University Avenue.

The protesters carried placards that read: "No Consent No Pipeline" and "Protect Land Defenders."

Protest shows support for Indigenous rights, marcher says

Erika Chan, a protester at the march, said Indigenous governance should be respected. 

"There needs to be meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples before building a pipeline," she said. "It's pretty clear what true reconciliation and true sustainability would actually mean. It's up to the government to decide whether they are going to follow through with that."

For Michelle Bardach, a member of the Squamish First Nation visiting Toronto from Vancouver, the issue hits particularly close to home. She said the turnout at the protest is inspiring.

"It does give me hope. There's a lot of people feeling like they're losing their hope. All the stuff that's going on is making a lot people feel like reconciliation is dead and that government doesn't care about these issues that they have talked about for so long," Bardach said.

"But then, it's good to see — you look at all these people — there are still so many people in support of Indigenous rights." 

Bardach had some advice for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: "Keep your promises, check your privilege and listen with your heart and your soul to what the people are saying."

A protester wears face paint at the protest in Toronto. (CBC)

Const. Alex Li, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said the march was peaceful, no one was arrested and police were there to help with traffic control and the movement of the march.

Toronto's Wet'suwet'en march followed a demonstration on Monday in which protesters blocked access to a border crossing in eastern Ontario, closing Thousand Islands Bridge near the Ontario-New York border for two and a half hours.

Similar protests have been held right across Canada.

Other solidarity protests, including a rail blockade in Tyendinaga territory by Mohawk First Nation protesters near Belleville, Ont., have shut down passenger and freight train service across large parts of the country since Feb. 6.

On Monday, Via Rail reported that 470 of its trains have been cancelled because of rail blockades, affecting more than 94.000 passengers.

Watch a report by CBC's Lauren Pelley on the Family Day march:

Toronto marches for Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs

4 years ago
Duration 2:35
CBC reporter Lauren Pelley covers a Family Day march in downtown Toronto that drew more than 1,000 people. The marchers were there to show support for Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to a pipeline in northern B.C.

The Mohawk blockade began after Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in B.C. faced a raid from the RCMP who were enforcing a court injunction that gave Coastal GasLink, the company behind the $6.6 billion liquefied natural gas pipeline, access to a work area for the project.

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre pipeline route, but the hereditary chiefs in the Wet'suwet'en First Nation say they have title to a vast section of the land and never relinquished that by signing a treaty.

The Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs assert Aboriginal title, or exclusive rights to the land, over 22,000 square kilometres of northern B.C.

They carried placards, they sang, they chanted slogans, they drummed. (CBC)

With files from Lauren Pelley, The Canadian Press