Wet’suwet’en demonstrators planning to shut down B.C. government buildings with protests Friday

Watch Demonstrators plan to shut down more than 30 government offices Friday but B.C.'s solicitor general warns there will be consequences if the protest isn't peaceful. April Lawrence reports.

Supporters of hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation are planning to shut down B.C. government buildings in Victoria with demonstrations on Friday.

However, a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted the province an injunction on Thursday afternoon authorizing police to arrest and remove anyone blocking entrances at the legislature.

The plan for protests follows the one at the B.C. legislature on Tuesday where hundreds of people blocked entrances to the building in in solidarity with the fight against the construction of Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C.

“We’re disrupting the B.C. government’s operations, so we’re calling for picket lines. It’s a huge action across Victoria,” said Morgan Mowatt, a PhD student at the University of Victoria and a member of the Gitxsan First Nation.

She said organizers want the rally to be peaceful and safe.

“We’re doing this out of love in our hearts and for our future generations, and we are always acting peacefully and in ceremony,” Mowatt said.

Victoria police said they are anticipating traffic and other disruptions on Friday due to the planned blockade at public building in Victoria.

“During previous protest incidents, protesters have moved without warning to blockade intersections, public roads and bridges. Officers and resources are being deployed in anticipation of these actions,” police said in a statement. 

 “Our primary duty is public safety. Our goal is to keep everyone safe. During protest incidents officers work to continuously balance the right to safe, peaceful, lawful protest with our duty to protect the public.”

The head of the B.C. civil service sent an email to employees cautioning that another protest may occur on Friday.

Don Wright wrote that staff may have heard protesters are planning to “shut down” as many ministries as possible. He said the civil service has developed a flexible plan to maintain as much service to the public as possible.

“Please ensure that your safety and that of your colleagues is your first priority,” he said. “We will not ask public servants to put themselves into any situation where they do not feel safe.”

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says public servants are prepared to expect the protests, but abuse of workers will not be tolerated.

He says there will be consequences if people engage in activities outside the law and he expects that will be enforced by police.

After Tuesday’s protest at the B.C. legislature, Premier John Horgan alleged staff had been “pushed and jostled” on their way into the building.

Victoria police said Wednesday four people have reported being assaulted during the demonstration. Police said three of those people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The fourth was not physically injured but equipment the person was carrying was reportedly damaged, police said.

Friday’s protests are planned for between 8 a.m. and noon PT.

Meanwhile, two hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have launched a constitutional challenge of fossil-fuel projects.

The challenge calls on the Federal Court to declare that Canada is constitutionally obliged to meet international climate-change targets, which the chiefs contend would cancel approvals for the Coastal GasLink line.

Coastal GasLink says it has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the 670-kilometre route, but the hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation say they have title to a vast section of the land and never relinquished that by signing a treaty.

Without their consent, the project cannot be built, they say, and they’ve repeatedly gone to court to stop it – without success.

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC


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