Climate activists in Fredericton show solidarity with Wet'suwet'en chiefs

·3 min read

Climate activist group Extinction Rebellion held a rally in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs Friday afternoon in Fredericton.

About two dozen supporters rallied with banners in front of City Hall, then marched onto the Westmorland Street Bridge.

Demonstrations have been happening across the country in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who have been opposing the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline on their territory in northern British Columbia.

CN Rail has closed all Eastern Canadian trains and Via Rail has cancelled trains nationwide because of the demonstrations taking place along or on the railway tracks.

Margot Sheppard of Extinction Rebellion said it's time the country hears the protesters' message.

"We just want to be part of that movement across Canada that's standing up and having their voices heard that corporations are not going to run the show," she said.

Logan Perley/CBC
Logan Perley/CBC

Sheppard said she believes there is a lot of overlap in climate and Indigenous issues and it's important to stand up for both.

"I just have learned through my Indigenous allies over the years that they've had it up to their eyeballs with the oppression of the Canadian government," Sheppard said. "They are protecting the land, and the water, and the air.

"It's important to listen to native peoples and it's important to listen to the electorate of Canada who elected this government who seems hell bent on doing everything in the favour of corporations and the extractive industry and ignoring the views of people."

Extinction Rebellion has been linked to climate-change demonstrations around the globe.

Sheppard said that given the spontaneous nature of this particular rally, supporters decided not to shut down the Westmorland Street Bridge for public safety reasons.

Logan Perley/CBC
Logan Perley/CBC

The arrests made by the RCMP elsewhere over the last week made her feel "terrible," Sheppard said.

"As someone who was involved with the shale gas protests back in 2013, I saw a very big overreach of the police force there, and it just brings back memories of that and I was not one of the targets, but I was there on the front lines with some of the Indigenous allies who were targeted."

Victor Woods of the Council of Canadians, a group that campaigns for clean water and green energy, among other goals, said he just recently returned from British Columbia and has been following the Wet'suwet'en chiefs' fight for self-governance over their lands since before the 1997 Supreme Court decision Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, which granted the Wet'suwet'en people Aboriginal title over their territory.

"In that decision, the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged that the Wet'suwet'en people own 22,000 square kilometres," Woods said. "And so now you have a government that's running roughshod over the First Nations peoples by trying to push a pipeline through that the people don't want."

Woods said it is important for people to acknowledge what he considers unjust treatment.

"Canada is violating their own laws by doing what they're doing to the Wet'suwet'en, and I think this has to come into the mainstream," he said. "Average Canadians need to see this, need to understand it."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for ministers of the cabinet to begin dialogue with parties who are shutting down railways.