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Province defends inviting protesters into legislature after backlash over arrests

Last Updated Mar 5, 2020 at 1:14 pm PST

FILE - B.C. Legislature in Victoria. (Martin MacMahon, NEWS 1130 Photo)

A meeting between Indigenous protesters and the province ends in arrests, the province is under fire

Five protesters were arrested for mischief after they refused to leave the B.C. Legislature

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — The province is under fire after a meeting with Indigenous protesters in the B.C. Legislature ended in several arrests Wednesday night.

Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser says the meeting inside the building was based on an agreement of mutual respect.

“We entered into these discussions with good faith and I am very disappointed,” he says. “It’s that respect, and trust, and good faith is the approach toward reconciliation – the only approach that can possibly work.”

The protesters apparently promised to clear out of the building after the meeting, which centered on the ongoing controversy over blockades sparked by a pipeline dispute, but then back-tracked and didn’t leave.

As for if Fraser will extend his hand again – he says the situation is raw right now, but he is happy no one was hurt. Fraser adds, in hindsight, he might have chosen a different location to meet.

One of the protesters not arrested, Ta’kaiya Blaney, says they are just standing their ground.

“There was no disrespect intended. But rather we are enacting our deep respect that we have for the lands that we walk upon.”

The Liberals’ Mike de Jong characterizes the invitation as an irresponsible and bad judgment that the “minister apparently thought it would be a good idea to invite them into the building.”

Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan has offered support to Fraser for trying to find a solution to reconciliation saying the “mob outside” wasn’t helpful.

RELATED: Indigenous protesters arrested in Victoria after refusing to leave Legislature

Horgan also apologized to Victoria Police who were called in and arrested five protesters who refused to leave the legislature. Police say they were surrounded by more than 100 protesters at one point, “and were unable to respond to emergency calls for service.”

Protests and blockades against the Coastal GasLink pipeline through Wet’suwe’ten territory have been held across the country for weeks.

With files from Hana Mae Nassar and Dean Recksiedler