Environment featured Racism

“We all have the same fight”: Halifax rally highlights solidarity from Mi’kma’ki to Wet’suwet’en Territory

Photo Stacey Gomez

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – On a chilly Thursday earlier this week about 100 people rallied in front of the Halifax Regional Police Station on Gottingen Street to show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders fighting the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline. 

The rally got off to a start with chants like “From Unist’ot’en to Mi’kma’ki / Defend that native sovereignty!” and “Coastal Gas, Alton Gas / Both these projects shall not pass!” 

Speakers included grassroots grandmothers and water protectors on the front lines of resistance to Alton Gas’ highly contested natural gas storage project. The Alton Gas project  threatens to pump up to 10,000 cubic meters of brine per day into the Sipekne’katik (Shubenacadie) River.

Grassroots grandmother Dorene Bernard spoke about how deeply connected these two struggles are, recounting an exchange with Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief Na’moks: “He came to tell us about their fight to protect their land and their water, to protect their rights to title to their land. We walked together and I told him my story: here we were on the other side, in Mi’kma’ki, and they were in British Columbia on the Pacific Coast and we had the same issues. We’re talking about our treaty rights and title to our land: what happens to our lands, what happens to our waters and the lack of respect to our people.” 

The five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and their hereditary chiefs have rejected all pipeline proposals, including the CGL project, asserting their sovereignty on unceded territory. 

In 1997, a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that the Wet’suwet’en had not given up title to their territory, encompassing 22,000 square km. 

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs maintain that CGL does not have free, prior and informed consent to operate in their territory. 

Nevertheless, CGL continues with its plans to construct a 670-km pipeline that would cut through Wet’suwet’en Territory. The project, owned by TC Energy (formerly TransCanada Corp), would carry liquid natural gas (LNG) or fracked gas from Northeastern BC to the coastal town of Kitimat for processing and export. 

Recent reporting by The Guardian, based on access to internal documents, revealed that the RCMP was prepared to use lethal force during a raid to enforce an interim injunction against Indigenous land defenders at the Gidmt’en checkpoint on January 7th, 2019. Fourteen people were arrested that day, including Mi’kmaq water protector Rebecca Cope-Moore, who had travelled there in an act of solidarity. 

See also: Elizabeth Goodridge: Lethal force revelations nothing new for Indigenous activists in Mi’kma’ki and Labrador

“We all have the same fight,” said grassroots grandmother Darlene Gilbert (Thunderbird Swooping Down Woman). She added: “The police have to secure us. It’s their right to protect us, not to defend the corporations or the Government of Canada. It’s their job to protect us, yet they want to shoot us.” 

Last April, Darlene was arrested by RCMP alongside Madonna Bernard (Kukuwes Wowkis) and Paula Isaac (Kiju Muin) at an encampment located at the entrance of the Alton Gas worksite, for allegedly violating a temporary injunction ordering them to leave. 

A ruling by BC Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church on December 31, 2019 issued a permanent injunction in CGL’s favour, along with an RCMP enforcement order. Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs swiftly rejected Justice Church’ decision and evicted CGL’s workers from their territory

Meanwhile, CGL posted notice of the new injunction order online and at the site on Tuesday, giving Wet’suwet’en land defenders and supporters 72 hours to clear the way for the project to continue. 

Wet’suwet’en land defenders have called for solidarity actions from January 7-12th,  2020, concerned that they’ll see a repeat of last year’s repression. “Light your sacred fires and come to our aid as the RCMP prepares again to enact colonial violence against Wet’suwet’en people,” reads the call-out.

The rally held in Halifax is one of 40 actions expected to take place throughout North America as part of this week of action, with another action scheduled for Sunday. 

Supporters are asked to donate to the Unist’ot’en 2020 Legal Fund or to the Gidimt’en Yintah Access point

Upcoming events

Solidarity Rally, Sunday, January 12 @ 12pm, RBC Spring Garden (5855 Spring Garden Rd)

“RBC is the single largest investor in the coastal gas link pipeline,” reads the event call-out on Instagram

Unist’ot’en to Mi’kma’ki: Indigenous Resistance in Turtle Island: Screening of Invasion and panel discussion 

Facebook event here. Saturday, January 18 @ 5pm, Dalhousie Student Union Building McInnes Room

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