Written by: Paige Riding, News Writer
On Monday January 27 at 10:00 a.m., SFU students and community members participated in a walkout in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. They gathered in Convocation Mall before joining a larger protest at City Hall.
The Facebook event page explains that “Wet’suwet’en sovereignty and unceded lands are under attack. We are asking you to join in the international call for support issued by the Wet’suwet’en Nation by organizing walk outs across British Columbia and Canada.”
With regard to the specific issue that the protest focuses on, the event page notes that “Wet’suwet’en First Nation are under attack by the RCMP for defending their land against the Coastal Gaslink LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) pipeline.”
After students had gathered in Convocation Mall, the microphone was opened for speakers. Priority time with the microphone was provided to Indigenous students.
Miriam Abel, organizer volunteer, explains the purpose of the protest.
“The RCMP is still fighting against [the Wet’suwet’en Nation]. That does not only break Indigenous laws but also Indigenous sovereignty, and so we’re here today to show solidarity and make a statement that it is not okay.”
Near the contested pipeline construction area, the RCMP have set up a roadblock.
For Abel, the protest was necessary “ [ . . . ] especially now after BC has adopted the UN Declaration of Rights for Indigenous People [ . . . ] in that declaration, it says that Indigenous people have the right to defend their land, and that’s what the Wet’suwet’en Nation is doing and BC is basically breaking their own law.”
Students held signs with sayings such as, “no consent, no pipeline” and “Indigenous peoples matter.” The largest white banner reading “Wet’suwet’en Strong” hung in front of the crowd.
In the beginning of the rally, SFSS President Giovanni HoSang led the crowd in a chant.
A protester (that wished to remain anonymous) noted that “we were uninvited guests on Indigenous lands, yet we still occupy them. So when Indigenous people are being mistreated and their lands are being disrespected and taken and they’re not being listened to, it’s our job to stand [ . . . ] with them.”
“We’re not giving them a voice, because they always had a voice. It’s just their voice has been silenced, so we’re trying to give them a platform where their voices can be heard,” the protester concluded.
The group then proceeded to transit from the Burnaby campus to Vancouver City Hall to join a larger group of protesters from all over Metro Vancouver.
Hundreds of students from high schools and universities walked out of their Monday classes to join the protest at Vancouver City Hall. Scheduled speakers at the larger rally included Jo Walden, Jean Swanson, Ida Manuel, Jaye Simpson, Patricia Kelly, and Dakota Bear.