The K’òmoks First Nation has issued a statement saying it was not involved with the blockade on Highway 19 on Feb. 10.
According to K’òmoks First Nation Chief Nicole Rempel, K’òmoks First Nation was never contacted or advised of the event and they are disappointed their name was unknowingly used.
“This event was organized by non-indigenous Comox Valley residents who aren’t connected to our territory in the same way as K’òmoks, and in no way represent K’òmoks or our values. It is saddening to see the racist comments in social media aimed at our community when K’òmoks was not involved,” Rempel wrote in the statement.
Chief Nicole Rempel is a member of the K’òmoks First Nation and was re-elected on Jan. 6, 2019, to serve another two-year term on K’òmoks Council.
Wet’suwet’en supporters blocked the Inland Island Highway in both directions near Courtenay for approximately 22 hours on Monday. The protest organizers described themselves as a group of concerned residents on K’òmoks Territory that had the aid of K’òmoks Nation people.
“We, a group of concerned residents defending our home in the K’omoks Territory with the aid of some K’omoks Nation people blockaded highway 19 at exit 117 for approximately 22 hours in response to the violent oppression happening in the Wet’suwet’en nation,” a statement from Extinction Rebellion Nanaimo said on Tuesday. The statement said that the protest was not an Extinction Rebellion event but Extinction Rebellion Nanaimo was supporting the facilitation of the event.
The demonstrators set up the blockade at midnight on Feb. 10 and planned to stay indefinitely in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. But things quickly became tense. Early on a truck drove through the barricade and verbal threats increased as the day went on. The truck came back to the blockade a second time.
READ MORE: Protesters push plywood at truck going through Wet’suwet’en Highway 19 blockade
At one point, five people suddenly arrived and tore down their barricade. Wet’suwet’en supporter Kiyoshi Kosky said the group was wearing bandanas and came out of the nearby woods. A person who wasn’t part of the group of demonstrators was arrested, according to Kosky.
One of the demonstrators, Deraek Menar, from The Land Defenders, said threats escalated throughout the day and on Monday night, demonstrators were so concerned they would be harmed. So they decided to pack up early and go home.
READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en supporters end Highway 19 protest early due to safety concerns
The demonstrators say there will be other actions until the government backs down and properly negotiates with the Wet’suwet’un.
All 20 elected band councils along the northern B.C. pipeline route, including the Wet’suwet’en council, have signed benefits agreements with Coastal GasLink.
However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the council established by the Indian Act only has authority over reserve lands.The hereditary chiefs assert title to a vast 22,000-square-kilometre area because they have never signed a treaty ceding their traditional territories.
With files from The Canadian Press