Around 50 people gathered in front of the Prince George courthouse today (Jan. 8) to rally in support of pipeline protesters arrested in northwestern B.C.
Fourteen people were taken into custody yesterday at a blockade southwest of Houston, where members of the Gidimt'en clan of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation had set up a camp to control access to a pipeline project across their territory.
“The level of support is phenomenal. We have people all across Canada rallying,” says Jennifer Pighin, one of the organizers of the Prince George rally.
“Here, in Prince George, this is the most people I’ve seen come out for an event in support of us and all around the world.”
Rallies have been organized in 55 cities across Canada and internationally, including as far away as Europe.
An RCMP statement says yesterday’s arrests came after officers realized a resolution was unlikely, even though they had spoken with camp members about removing the blockade and set up a meeting between hereditary chiefs and the pipeline company.
Police say a temporary exclusion zone is now in place along the remote road and will be consistently re-assessed.
TransCanada says it has signed agreements with all First Nations along the route but demonstrators argue Wet'suwet'en house chiefs, who are hereditary rather than elected, have not given consent for work through their territories.
“It is sad to see they don’t recognize our own governance system and are not adhering to that. If they were seen in our courts and in our feast halls, they would be held accountable for their actions,” says Pighin.
“Just to be here is heartwarming; it's uplifting. It gives me hope for the future. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see through all of the racism and through the colonial mindset and think that it is ever going to change but I have evidence here and people who show me otherwise.”
LNG Canada announced in October that it was moving ahead with its plans for a $40-billion pipeline and liquefied natural gas export facility in Kitimat.
Construction of TransCanada’s $6.2-billion, 670 kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline connecting gas producers in the Dawson Creek area with the Kitimat export plant, is scheduled to begin this month.
— with files from Canadian Press