Protest slows high­way traf­fic

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NEWS -

Pe­ri­odic slow­downs oc­curred on On­tario high­ways Fri­day, in­clud­ing ma­jor ones in the Lon­don re­gion, as In­dige­nous groups held what they de­scribed as a “sol­i­dar­ity slow­down” with a Bri­tish Columbia com­mu­nity protest­ing a nat­u­ral gas pipe­line.

Be­fore the protest be­gan, or­ga­nizer Sunny Mar­a­cle said driv­ers would be trav­el­ling at slow speeds down high­ways to show their sup­port for the Wet’suwet’en First Na­tion.

Ear­lier this week, heav­ily armed po­lice ar­rested peo­ple protest­ing a Coastal GasLink pipe­line that would run through the Wet’suwet’en ter­ri­tory to Kiti­mat, B.C.

Mar­a­cle said Fri­day’s peace­ful protests were meant to sup­port a com­mu­nity fight­ing to pre­serve its an­ces­tral lands.

He said con­voys of sup­port­ers were con­verg­ing near Brant­ford, adding other groups were gath­er­ing in the eastern part of the prov­ince. OPP in the Lon­don area warned Fri­day morn­ing about the traf­fic-jam­ming protests along high­ways 402, 401 and 403.

Pro­vin­cial po­lice in var­i­ous parts of On­tario re­ported ve­hi­cles trav­el­ling at be­tween 50 and 60 kilo­me­tres an hour, caus­ing rolling de­lays, but said the protests were peace­ful.

Mar­a­cle said the sit­u­a­tion in B.C. demon­strates the govern­ment’s lack of re­spect for In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and the ways in which they try to con­duct their af­fairs.

“We close the high­way be­cause of the way the govern­ment’s car­ry­ing on try­ing to take our land and forc­ing stuff down our throats,” Mar­a­cle said. “We’re telling them no, they’re go­ing across our land . . . They had no right to do what they did to our peo­ple out west.”

On Mon­day, 14 peo­ple were ar­rested after the Moun­ties took apart a gate that blocked ac­cess to an area where Coastal GasLink wants to build a nat­u­ral gas pipe­line.

The ar­rests were made as the RCMP en­forced a court in­junc­tion against mem­bers of the Wet’suwet’en who op­posed the pipe­line by pre­vent­ing ac­cess to the planned route. TC En­ergy, the com­pany for­merly known as Tran­sCanada that plans to de­velop the pipe­line, said it has signed agree­ments with the elected coun­cils of all 20 First Na­tions along the path, in­clud­ing the Wet’suwet’en.

But mem­bers of the First Na­tion op­pos­ing the pipe­line said the com­pany failed to get con­sent from its five house chiefs, who are hered­i­tary rather than elected. They ar­gue the elected coun­cil has ju­ris­dic­tion only over the reserve, which is much smaller than the 22,000 square kilo­me­tres that com­prise the Wet’suwet’ens tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory.

Mar­a­cle said Fri­day’s high­way pro­test­ers agree that band coun­cils are not em­pow­ered to make de­ci­sions for the com­mu­nity.

Po­lice in­di­cated the de­lays were not long-last­ing. OPP say they were work­ing to main­tain and re­store traf­fic flow, while work­ing with pro­test­ers to al­low them “to ex­er­cise their law­ful rights.”

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