Demonstrators rally, march, dance in Toronto to show support for Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs
Peaceful event comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for blockades to come down
More than 1,000 demonstrators staged a round dance in downtown Toronto on Saturday afternoon to show support for Indigenous land rights.
The round dance was held in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary chiefs who oppose a Coastal GasLink pipeline that would carry natural gas to the B.C. coast.
Demonstrators rallied at Queen's Park first, then they marched south on University Avenue before heading east to Nathan Phillips Square. There, they gathered in large concentric circles, holding hands and moving across the pavement.
Cheering as they circled the square, the demonstrators stepped in time to the beat of a drum.
At the rally, there was smudging and a drum circle, and during the march, demonstrators carried flags, banners and placards, and they sang and chanted.
The peaceful demonstration of support comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a stern call on Friday for rail blockades erected in support of the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary chiefs to come down. The blockades have paralyzed Canada's rail system.
Pamela Hart, an organizer, said the event was not a protest but instead a show of solidarity.
"Today is in solidarity with the land protectors," Hart said.
"We just want to come together and let them know that they are seen, that they are heard, that we support them and that the nations across Canada are with them. We want to create some medicine and some strength and some unity to recognize their efforts," she added.
"We are standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across Canada. And it's important that they just know that they have support and love from their community from right across the board."
Hart said Indigenous people have to fight for their rights on many different issues every day and the event is an acknowledgement of their strength.
"We need to continue to stand up, have a voice, come together and show that we're strong, we're here and that we're always going to be here," she said.
Traditional chiefs now in Kahnawake, Que.
Meanwhile on Saturday, the traditional chiefs arrived in Kahnawake, Quebec, where they will tour Mohawk communities that have set up blockades in solidarity with their cause.
One of the hereditary chiefs said on Friday his people will be willing to talk with the B.C. and federal governments when the RCMP in B.C. have left traditional Wet'suwet'en territory entirely and Coastal GasLink ceases work in the area.
Back in Toronto, the afternoon event drew Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.
With files from The Canadian Press, Natalie Nanowski