Pipeline protest shuts down Portage Ave.


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A pipeline fight in British Columbia brought traffic chaos to downtown Winnipeg late Monday afternoon.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/02/2020 (1139 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A pipeline fight in British Columbia brought traffic chaos to downtown Winnipeg late Monday afternoon.

Vehicle flow on a long stretch of Portage Avenue — from Edmonton Street east to the intersection at Main Street, as well as all the north and south sidestreets — was blocked at 5 p.m., as hundreds of protesters took to the pavement to show solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

As well, another few hundred protesters left the Portage Place shopping centre at the same time, heading south on Edmonton Street, blocking traffic as they moved towards Broadway.

Earlier, as hundreds of people began massing on the main and second floor of the mall’s Edmonton Court, Emily Amos, an organizer and spokeswoman for Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en, said: “This is just another solidarity action just to put more emphasis on it. We’re watching and standing with them in (northern B.C.).”

Amos said while they would take to the streets, others were continuing to hold a peaceful occupation of Liberal MP Dan Vandal’s St. Boniface riding constituency office, in its seventh day Monday.

“There’s not much more we can do other than what we’re doing — we’re doing what we can now,” she said.

The protest in Winnipeg mirrored other action across the country in support of Wet’suwet’en opposition to construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Local organizers vow more events will take place in the days ahead.

It also came after a similar rally Feb. 7, which started outside the doors of Winnipeg’s RCMP headquarters, spilling out onto the street to close a stretch of Portage Avenue for about 40 minutes.

Monday’s rally was larger in scope, and drew many non-Indigenous participants.

Rick Borchert joined the protest, after riding his bicycle from the Wolseley neighbourhood.

“The non-Indigenous people of Canada have abused the Indigenous people over and over,” Borchert said. “If reconciliation is going to be more than lip service, we have to try and have meaningful decision making.

“This (B.C. conflict) looks like another case of ‘you’re in the way.’ I can’t believe it’s still happening today. We should be ashamed.”

Lydia, a non-Indigenous senior who didn’t wish to give her last name, said she agreed the Indigenous people in British Columbia are having their rights trampled by the federal government.

“The RCMP are going onto the unceded territory without their permission,” she said. “I’m ashamed. It’s their land. The hereditary chiefs have the right.

“I feel so upset about it I had to come out here.”

Protest organizer Bianca Ballantyne said she hopes more non-Indigenous people come out in support in the days ahead.

“I hope people who are stopped in traffic and in their cars question why we are doing this and do their own research,” Ballantyne said. “It is unceded land (in B.C.) and the RCMP are trespassing on their territory.”

A statement by the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition (one of the organizers of the protest in Winnipeg) said more than 100 solitary actions have taken place to date across North America and around the world, condemning the actions against “Wet’suwet’en land defenders.”

Last December, the Supreme Court of Canada granted an expanded injunction to Coastal GasLink to enable it to clear protesters and continue construction on the natural gas pipeline project. In recent days, RCMP have begun enforcing the injunction, arresting 11 people Saturday, and more Monday.

The Canadian Association of Journalists accused the RCMP of violating press freedom last week, by interfering with journalists attempting to cover the dispute.


Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.


Updated on Monday, February 10, 2020 4:45 PM CST: Comments turned off.

Updated on Monday, February 10, 2020 8:10 PM CST: Full write through, updates photos.

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