Supporters of the Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en protest at the B.C. Legislature last week cheered as speakers railed against what they termed colonial governments and systemic racism.
The current court injunction against protesters filed by Speaker of the House Darryl Plecas was also under fire. The injunction was filed after Wet’suwet’en protesters blocked people from entering the Legislative buildings the morning of the Throne Speech last month. Protesters were assembled to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ land claims and their opposition to the LNG pipeline project being constructed across their territory.
“This is the face of colonization!” shouted University of Victoria student Saul Brown, a frequent speaker at the Indigenous protests and a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation. “This overly-broad injunction without a defendant, without a time limit cuts to the very core of what Canadians uphold as a democratic society: To come together and assemble freely,” Brown shouted to the crowd during the second multi-day protest at the B.C. Legislature in the past month.
The injunction protects the right to peacefully protest and to “engage in assembly or expressive activity provided that such activity does not violate the terms of the Order.” The terms include not blocking building entrances or harassing people. The police have also upheld the right to peaceful protest despite protesters blocking the main front entrance.
“When there was loggers lobbying and advocating for their rights to go and harvest old-growth cedars, this injunction wasn’t enforced,” Brown shouted through a megaphone to the crowd. “But when it’s indigenous youth bodies on the line, they come in here and enforce.”
Brown was referring to a protest in mid-February when hundreds of forestry workers converged on the Legislature to deliver an 8,000-person petition demanding protection of so-called working forests. Both rallies had a police presence. The forestry protesters were lobbying to continue harvesting, including in old-growth forests, at current levels. The forestry rally took place over one afternoon and featured a handful of speakers, including several North Island mayors and the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development Doug Donaldson. Each of the two Wet’suwet’en protests have each spanned several days. They also had a much less scripted feel where demonstrators pressed close to the buildings, erected tents and burned a ceremonial fire.