In Kahnawake and many other communities from coast to coast, actions and demonstrations were held this week in solidarity with land defenders in Wet’suwet’en territory.
After the RCMP arrested 29 people on November 18 and 19 while enforcing an injunction granted to Coastal GasLink, Kahnawa’kehró:non organized a rolling blockade Wednesday on Highway 132 to protest the state violence seen at the Gidimt’en checkpoint.
“We’re standing with the Wet’suwet’en. It’s very important,” said a land defender at the rolling blockade. “We’re all Indigenous, so we’ve got to stand together or else we’ll be destroyed along with the environment.”
About 20 cars participated in the blockade, which blocked the Mercier Bridge for roughly half an hour between 12 and 1 p.m.
Though the RCMP’s actions against land defenders protecting their territory from resource extraction occurred across Turtle Island on the west coast, the pain and anger caused are in no way diminished by the distance. The struggle hits close to home here too.
“Our job is to take care of the land and leave it the way it was found when we first came here, when we were first born here,” said another land defender at the blockade in Kahnawake. “This is what we’re fighting for, our brothers and sisters not to get taken away in the Canadian colonialism of the land.”
The action was a grassroots initiative organized by the people following discussions Tuesday evening. The Kahnawake Peacekeepers were present to keep community members safe as they blocked the road.
The Kanien’kehá:ka Nation at Kahnawake on Route 207 issued a statement in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation and its traditional clan leadership. “The Longhouse calls for the removal of the RCMP from Wet’suwet’en territory and for Coastal GasLink employees to respect the evacuation order issued by the Gidimt’en Clan,” the statement reads.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) also issued a statement in support and calling on the governments of British Columbia and Canada to “maintain peace by de-escalating the situation.”
“We know what it’s like to go through something like 1990, and that’s why our statement was imploring governments to take this seriously and to make every effort to try to find peace,” said MCK grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, who was at the rolling blockade.
This was just one of many solidarity actions held across Canada in recent days to take a stand against RCMP acting on an injunction granted to a private oil company building a pipeline contested by hereditary chiefs and others, and the inaction of the provincial and federal governments.
A blockade on train tracks in Montreal’s Rosemont neighbourhood drew a crowd of almost 100 people on Sunday evening, according to social media reports.
Other actions, often shared online with the hashtags #ShutDownCanada and #WetsuwetenStrong, were held in Toronto, Kingston, Six Nations of the Grand River, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Diamond (Manitoba), among others.
A series of grassroots-organized rolling blockades from Hamilton to Brantford, Akwesasne to Tyendinaga and Six Nations to Tyendinaga also had Kanien’kehá:ka rallying in support for the Wet’suwet’en Nation on Wednesday.
Nick LaMarsh participated in the Hamilton to Brantford rolling blockade.
“These solidarity actions and protests need to happen around the country to show the people being oppressed they have support and are not alone,” he said.
He spoke of ongoing issues with the city of Brantford as another example of colonial encroachment, which was why the rolling blockade between Hamilton and that city was organized as well.
“It’s time the settlers realize what their governments and police forces are doing is illegal, inhumane and immoral. Their threats of violence and use of violence is uncalled for and should not be tolerated by anyone,” he continued. “Sitting idle is saying that you are okay with police brutality and corporate government corruption with big business.”
Ellen Gabriel, who was a prominent voice during the 1990 Siege of Kanesatake (Oka Crisis), noted that the fight against oil extraction in Wet’suwet’en territory is a fight hundreds of years in the making.
“They’re still using the Doctrine of Discovery, these doctrines of superiority that have been condemned by the United Nations.”
“They (Canadian governments) are not interested in anything but the bottom line and money. It’s greed, it’s fear-mongering in the sense of economic fear-mongering towards Indigenous people, to say that we don’t like development,” she said.
“What we don’t like is unsustainable development.”
The Wet’suwet’en had proposed an alternate pipeline route that would not disrupt their territory earlier on in this lengthy battle with Coastal GasLink, which was refused by the oil company.
“To brutalize people the way that we’ve seen the RCMP doing, to brutalize the land the way we’ve seen development doing so that we’re to the tipping point in the climate crisis, it’s a wake-up call for everybody,” said Gabriel.
Savannah Stewart is a writer, editor and translator from Montreal currently reporting with The Eastern Door. She is the contributing editor for the arts for Cult MTL and her work has also appeared in Briarpatch Magazine, Ricochet, Maisonneuve Magazine and The Rover. She tweets at @SavannahMTL.