Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island planning citizen’s arrest to disrupt BC budget speech

Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island planning citizen's arrest to disrupt BC budget speech
File photo/CHEK
Police make a path through protesters at the B.C. legislature on Feb. 11, 2020.

Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island has announced they plan to make a citizen’s arrest to disrupt the B.C. government budget speech on Tuesday.

A citizen’s arrest is an arrest made not by a law officer but by a citizen who derives authority from the fact of being a citizen.

“Reconciliation is dead. The events of the past week on Wet’suwet’en territories have been an extreme demonstration of colonial violence, approved by the Trudeau and Horgan governments in contravention of Wet’suwet’en, Canadian and international law,” Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island wrote in a media advisory.

“Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) will undertake a peaceful lockdown and execute a citizen’s arrest to disrupt the BC government budget speech on Tuesday, which will fund further injury to the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and peoples. Citizens are empowered by a duty to act, and prevent a greater indictable harm; therefore XRVI will be undertaking a lockdown and citizens arrest to prevent further genocidal ‘crimes against humanity’ toward the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and peoples (under S.C. statute 2000, c. 24).”

The location and time of the citizen’s arrest have not been announced. The group has also not said who it will arrest.

Extinction Rebellion describes its group as an ” international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimize the risk of social collapse.”

Last Thursday, the province obtained an injunction preventing any blockades at entrances to the B.C. legislature and empowering police to make immediate arrests if rallies strayed off the lawns surrounding the building.

The injunction came two days after Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief supporters blocked all entrances to the legislature and forced cancellation of some ceremonial events linked to delivery of the government’s throne speech.

On Monday, Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, reiterated her desire to meet with those opposed to the $6.6-billion natural-gas pipeline as she sat down Monday with B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser in Victoria.

“We have reached out through a joint letter to the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs about meeting with us at the earliest opportunity and are hopeful we can all work together to establish a process for ongoing and constructive dialogue and action to address the issues at hand,” the ministers said in a joint statement late Monday.

“Our primary focus is everyone’s safety and ultimately, a peaceful resolution to the situation.”

The two were invited last week to meet by Gitxsan chief Norm Stephens after members of the First Nation erected a blockade near New Hazelton in support of neighbouring Wet’suwet’en chiefs.

Bennett’s sitdown with Fraser in Victoria came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held an emergency, closed-door meeting with cabinet ministers in Ottawa to discuss the blockades.

Trudeau emerged from the meeting emphasizing his desire to find an end to the crisis, adding he had reached out to a number of premiers and Indigenous leaders to discuss the standoff. Yet the prime minister was tightlipped about his plan to reach that conclusion.

“I understand how worrisome this is for so many Canadians and difficult for many people and families across the country,” Trudeau said. “We’re going to continue to focus on resolving the situation quickly and peacefully, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The prime minister, who cancelled a two-day trip to Barbados this week to deal with the crisis at home, did not take any questions before being driven away by his RCMP security detail.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Justice Minister David Lametti and others who attended the meeting with Trudeau were similarly mum on how they planned to address the crisis.

The ministerial meetings in Ottawa and Victoria came as protesters continued to block rail lines as well as highways and bridges in different parts of the country. Those included shutting down for the first time the Thousand Islands Bridge border crossing near Kingston, Ont.

The Ontario Provincial Police indicated they didn’t plan on breaking up that protest, saying “the OPP has no role to play in the underlying issues of the event and is not in a position to resolve them.” Protesters lifted their blockade of the bridge in the afternoon.

Mounties in Manitoba also reported about eight to ten demonstrators at a CN Rail crossing on Highway 75 in southern Manitoba. The highway and rail line both run south to the U.S. border crossing at Emerson, Man.

RCMP spokesman Robert Cyrenne said police were stopping traffic for safety, but that vehicles were still able to pass in both directions. CN said train movement in the area had been stopped and that the company was “evaluating our legal options very closely.”

The RCMP said it had deployed a liaison team to the site to “establish a dialogue and maintain open and ongoing communication.”

Police have largely refrained from direct action against the blockades since the RCMP enforced an injunction outside Houston, B.C. earlier this month, where opponents of the Coastal GasLink project were preventing access to a work site for the pipeline.

While more than 20 people were arrested and the company is preparing to resume work, the RCMP raid sparked more protests and blockades across the country.

Coastal GasLink signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route, including the Wet’suwet’en First Nation’s council. But Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs are opposed to the project and say the council does not have authority over the relevant land.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, who met Saturday with representatives of the Mohawk First Nation near Belleville, Ont., where a rail blockade has shut down train service across much of Eastern Canada, has invoked the Oka and Ipperwash crises in pressing for a peaceful solution.

Extinction Rebellion describes the group as an ” international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimize the risk of social collapse.”

With files from The Canadian Press


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