Anti-pipeline protesters march to Queen’s Park in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs
TORONTO -- A large group of people marched to Queen’s Park on Family Day in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are fighting against the construction of a pipeline through their territory in northern B.C.
The demonstration began at Christie Pitts Park in the city’s west end, near Bloor Street and Ossintgon Avenue, around 2 p.m.
Holding signs that said “solidarity with Wet’suwet’en,” “no consent, no pipeline,” and “respect Wet’suwet’en sovereignty,” the protesters walked 4.2 kilometers towards Queen’s Park, effectively shutting down the eastbound lanes of Bloor Street.
“I think it’s really important for us to just take a stand and make a lot of noise and that’s all we can do right now,” one participant said. “We want to be here in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en. We want land back and we want respect and we want no pipeline.”
“(The protest) says that people are aware of what’s going on and that they are paying attention and hopefully the government is going to be held accountable for what it’s doing,” protester Dalya Eidda said.
According to a Facebook page promoting the event, about 2,000 people were expected to take part in the protest.
The event page urged Torontonians to leave their organizational banners at home and to instead spend time with their family and friends making signs to bring to the march.
“Make banners and signs together, talk about what has been happening in Wet’suwet’en and what we can do to stop the RCMP invasion of their homelands,” the social media post said.
A section of Bloor and College streets were temporarily shut down to vehicular traffic as the massive crowd marched. Toronto police said that officers were on scene to assist with traffic and pedestrian control.
The march is the latest in civil disobedience organized in support of the Wet’suwet’en people, with protesters also blocking access to the Thousand Islands Bridge, which connects Ontario to the United States, on Monday. Motorists heading into the U.S. are being urged to plan an alternative route.
Both incidents follow a weekend packed with anti-pipeline demonstrations, with protesters stopping vehicles from entering the United States at the Rainbow International Bridge in Niagara Falls, Ont. on Sunday and members of the Indigenous community stopping trains from moving through a rail yard in Vaughan on Saturday.
A blockade near a rail line in Tyendinaga Mohawek territory near Belleville, Ont. is going on its second week.
The demonstrations have caused significant disruptions for travellers using VIA Rail, and CN rail has said they don’t feel it is safe to operate trains close to the blockade.
The Canada-wide protests erupted after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police moved into the Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia to enforce an injunction giving Coastal GasLink access to a worksite for the pipeline. More than two dozen protesters have been arrested.
While Coastal Gaslink has signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say band councils only have authority over reserve land.
Following the protest on Sunday in Niagara Falls, Ontario Premier Doug Ford released a statement saying he spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and asked the federal government to end the CN railway blockade.
“This evening, I asked the Prime Minister to recognize this is a serious issue of national significance impacting Canadians across the country. I urged the Prime Minister to assume responsibility to work with impacted communities to resolve these contentious issues,” Ford said. “Ontario will continue to support the federal government, Indigenous leaders and OPP and Indigenous police working to resolve this matter.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Trudeau said the government is going to focus on resolving the situation “quickly and peacefully.”
The prime minister cancelled a trip to Caribbean in order to attend an emergency meeting with senior cabinet ministers over the planned pipeline.