A standoff between heavily armed Canadian police and Wet'suwet'en tribal activists opposing a $40 billion pipeline project running through their ancestral lands is inviting comparisons with Standing Rock Sioux protests in the US.
Solidarity rallies were held across Canada on Friday, including outside the parliament in Ottawa, backing the Wet'suwet'en nation’s resistance to the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline. Meanwhile, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers continued dismantling the indigenous activists’ barricades in the snow-covered northwest mountains.
On Monday, the RCMP arrested 14 protesters at a bridge over Morice River. Images of heavily armed mounties in military-style gear detaining First Nations activists has generated substantial outrage in the country that prides itself on tolerance, politeness and multiculturalism.
— Sawyer Bogdan (@sleebogdan) January 8, 2019
At a contentious town hall meeting in Kamloops on Wednesday, some 800 km away from Unist'ot'en, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended Coastal Gaslink and TransMountain pipelines as a way to combat climate change. The $40 billion project to export Canadian liquid natural gas (LNG), he argued, “will supplant coal in Asia as a power source and do much for the environment.”
Several First Nations members in the audience were having none of it, accusing Trudeau of benefiting from the tribes’ “oppression and suffering” and demanding to see a deed to the land. The PM admitted he did not have one, saying it was the “old way” of doing things and that he wanted a “partnership” with indigenous communities.
TransCanada, which seeks to build the Coastal Gaslink, says it has had over 15,000 “interactions and engagements” with First Nations groups, and that the result of Monday’s raid was “not the one we wanted.”'
Read more: Standing Rock, the sequel: Canadian tribe battles pipeline land grab