VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Protesters have left their post outside the Swartz Bay ferry terminal near Victoria, but not before forcing a number of delays for travellers.
The demonstrators claim they are were working in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are trying to stop a natural gas line in north-central B.C. by blocking access to the terminal on Monday.
Disruption at the Swartz Bay Ferry terminal. Avoid accessing the area until further notice. Major traffic disruption.
— CS Police Service (@cspoliceservice) January 20, 2020
They set up a blockade on Highway 17 leading to the ferries, and were reportedly in the water as well in kayaks.
“In response to the recent call from the Wet’suwet’en for solidarity actions that ‘shut down rail lines, ports, and industrial infrastructure’ this action has targeted BC Ferries because of the corporation’s deepening integration with the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) industry,” a release circulating online by protesters reads. “BC Ferries has proposed ‘upgrades’ to two of its ferries that will make them reliant on the very product that Coastal GasLink (CGL) threatens to bring through Wet’suwet’en territory.”
Kolin Sutherland Wilson is a member of the Gitxan nation which is not far from the contested territory.
“As the people here, we’re completely against the criminalization of Indigenous sovereignty. Indigenous people being criminalized on their own land,” he says.
Protesters even covered signs with their own banners, and images showed dozens of people taking part in the demonstration, which created a backlog of vehicles trying to get into the terminal.
Sutherland Wilson says demonstrators are speaking up against RCMP actions, including an exclusion zone that is set up to keep people out of the construction area where the pipeline is planned. He says the federal and provincial governments must hear from hereditary leaders fighting against LNG and expects more protests to follow.
“At this point, we have moved on. We’ve come to a peaceful resolution to it all. I think we’ve made our statement and now it’s up to the next group of concerned people who would like to make their statement,” he says, adding Premier John Horgan should give hereditary chiefs leaders a chance to speak.
“We are here to echo the statements of the hereditary chiefs,” he says. “They’ve asked for the province and Canda to meet them and talk peacefully face-to-face.”
— Ash Kelly (@AshDKelly) January 20, 2020
Tensions continue to grow on the Wet’suwet’en First Nation over the proposed LNG pipeline, where violence has even broken out between protesters and police.
Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from B.C.’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast. The company has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along its path, but the hereditary clan chiefs who are leaders under the traditional form of governance say the project has no authority without their consent.
“We fully respect the rights of individuals to protest decisions that they don’t agree with, but our concern is allowing our customers to have safe and unimpeded access to our terminal,” BC Ferries’ Deborah Marshall told NEWS 1130.
Ferries were also being held at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal.
“At our Swartz Bay terminal right now, the lanes are blocked. The lanes leading into the terminal, so no customers are able to access the terminal at this point, so it’s affecting all of our routes sailing in and out of Swartz Bay right now,” she said Monday morning.
-With files from The Canadian Press