Protesters are blocking the Swartz Bay ferry terminal outside of Victoria “by land and kayak” in solidarity with a B.C. First Nation’s opposition to a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.
Both the 7 a.m. sailings from Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen, on the mainland, were held back while BC Ferries said it was determining “the scope of the protest.”
The 7 a.m. sailing out of Tsawwassen left 70 minutes behind schedule and the 9 a.m. sailing was cancelled. Ferries were also held back at Otter Bay and Village Bay in the southern Gulf Islands because of safety concerns with kayakers in the water.
Protesters began to clear the Swartz Bay terminal just before 9 a.m.
The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en nation have been fighting the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their untreatied territory near Smithers and Houston.
Protesters in Victoria said they are targeting BC Ferries because proposed upgrades to two of its vessels “will make them reliant on the very product that [Coastal GasLink] threatens to bring through Wet’suwet’en territory.”
Good morning - We are aware of the protest happening outside of our Swartz Bay terminal, and crew are working on a contingency plan for moving traffic through for processing. Keep updated here and through our #ServiceNotice page: https://t.co/0cdzfiMYJs ^js— BC Ferries (@BCFerries) January 20, 2020
Protest spokesperson Kolin Sutherland-Wilson of the Gitxsan First Nation – a neighbouring territory – said the group is composed of allies and young First Nations people from across the province.
“The more people learn about what’s happening, the more details, the more they want to get out there and make a statement,” Sutherland-Wilson said. “British Columbia’s policy towards unceded Indigenous nations has regressed to where it was over 100 years ago.”
The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs issued an eviction notice to the company on Jan. 4, demanding contractors and staff leave the territory and cease operations.
He said the demonstration was in support of that, and in opposition to any police force used to gain control over the work site, referring to the RCMP raids on a particular checkpoint on Jan. 7.
BREAKING - Group blockades Highway 17, prevents BC Ferries sailings by kayaks to demand respect for Wet’suwet'en sovereignty and oppose the threat of RCMP invasion #wetsuweten #bcpoli pic.twitter.com/iQpqYtFxlO— Anna Gerrard (@_AnnaGerrard) January 20, 2020
Sutherland-Wilson said RCMP were at the terminal, but not removing protesters.
Premier John Horgan has said the pipeline will proceed, citing court rulings in favour of the project, approval from 20 Indigenous nations, and its economic and social importance to the region.
- with a file from The Canadian Press
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