Winnipeg march in ‘spirit of solidarity’ with Wet’suwet’en
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/02/2020 (1026 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Around 100 demonstrators braved the bitter cold Tuesday in downtown Winnipeg to show support for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs blocking construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C.
“We gather in a spirit of solidarity, of peace of love and of respect,” Eric Reder, director of the Wilderness Committee’s Manitoba field office, said before the lunch-hour march from the Manitoba legislature to the Law Courts building and back.
The Wilderness Committee said it obtained a parade permit from the City of Winnipeg for the event.
“People across this country want to get the relationship with Indigenous peoples right,” Reder said in an interview. “They want to do this in a good way.”
Earlier this month, RCMP arrested Wet’suwet’en protesters in the pipeline’s path, following a court injunction.
Reder called the police removal of Wet’suwet’en supporters in B.C. a “colonial action” and “not how we build our future.” He said Indigenous communities shouldn’t have timelines forced on them to make decisions about their unceded lands.
“It really resonates in Manitoba, (when) we see resource projects here pushed into traditional territory.”
In Manitoba, in recent weeks, there have been pro-Wet’suwet’en protests and marches holding up road and rail traffic.
On Monday, a protestor was hit by a semi at demonstration on a highway in Morris. The victim did not require any medical attention, RCMP Corp. Julie Courchaine said Tuesday.
She said police are investigating, after a truck struck a person at the scene in the southbound lanes of Highway 75.
“The semi that was involved was quickly stopped by officers following the incident, and information was taken from the driver before he was allowed to proceed,” Courchaine said in an email.
“Statements from the victim and witnesses were also taken at the scene,” and police are reviewing video of the incident.
Outside the legislature Tuesday, Hollow Water First Nation member Lisa Raven urged fellow demonstrators to be careful and walk with a positive sense of purpose.
“Be grounded in that spirit that brought you out today — that spirit of kindness, generosity, support and love,” she said, using a megaphone outside the Manitoba legislature, where the northwest wind made it feel like -31 C.
“There’s people going about their day-to-day lives. In traffic, their priorities are getting where they want to go. It may not be welcome if they’re a little bit disrupted,” Raven said before the walk.
The march participants were accompanied by members of the Winnipeg Police Service.
A spokesman for the grassroots First Nations Indigenous Warriors told the crowd police were there to keep the demonstrators safe. “They’re here to help protect us from the mean drivers on Winnipeg streets,” half-joked the man identified only as Joseph.
Free Press columnist Niigaan Sinclair rallied the marchers “to protect our water and our land.”
“Are you ready to change a country?” Sinclair, an Anishinaabe, asked the crowd, which cheered its reply.
“Today we come together and have a chance to spend some time together walking through our home and through Treaty 1 territory and reminding every one in our community what this treaty means, what it means to be committed, what it looks like to be a family, truly.”
Meanwhile, demonstrators need to be careful not to turn away allies, said the president of the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg.
“There’s a fine line that you walk. When it starts affecting income and safety… I’m not against demonstrations, but I think we have to try and do these things in a better way to get better results,” Damon Johnston said by phone from Ottawa.
Incidents such as blocking rail lines that transport home heating fuel for an extended period of time many not help Indigenous people in the long run, he said.
“We have the right to demonstrate, but are you doing it in the best way possible?”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Updated on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 4:30 PM CST: Final copy