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Burning, picketing, marching, chanting: How solidarity for a pipeline spread through the nation

Burning, picketing, marching, chanting: How solidarity for a pipeline spread through the nation
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In downtown Victoria, scores of protesters marched and chanted in front of government offices as protests that have unfolded across Canada this week in solidarity with Indigenous objections to a natural gas pipeline continued on Friday.

Perhaps the most visible in the B.C. capital, the protests have played out across the country throughout the week, from a sit-in in Ottawa and marches in Edmonton, to rail blockades in Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario.

By Friday, there was an easing of tension: Even as demonstrators marched outside government buildings in Victoria, having held a prayer earlier in the morning to “open the hearts and minds” of politicians and the public, reports came that a rail blockade in northern B.C., near New Hazelton, had come down as government officials and protesters reached an agreed to meet. Another blockade, in Coquitlam, organized by the Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism, which had disrupted the morning commute, also ended Friday.

But the rail blockade in Ontario remained.

Near Belleville, Ont., roughly halfway between Ottawa and Toronto, protesters continued to stand firm. Temperatures hovered around -18C Friday morning, but a handful of people, bundled up, milled around the blocked tracks. Two trucks were parked alongside the tracks, and a banner reading “Stop Colonization” hung beside a pickup truck and camper.

As well, media reports said a blockade of a CP Rail line on Kahnawake Mohawk Territory near Montreal remained Friday morning, while the Quebec Union des municipalités demanded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government put an end to the protests that, as of Thursday evening, saw the shutdown of Canadian National Railway freight shipments in eastern Canada and Via Rail passenger shutdowns across the country.

VIA Rail trains are seen parked at Via Rail’s Toronto Maintenance Centre after the Canadian National Railway Co (CN Rail) said it will halt operations in eastern Canada and VIA Rail cancelled its service, as its rail lines continue to be blocked by anti-pipeline protesters, at Union Station in Toronto, Ontario, Canada February 14, 2020. Carlos Osorio / Reuters

“The situation is extremely worrisome and it is urgent the government of Canada settle it. We cannot wait another week,” said Suzanne Roy, interim president of the Union des municipalités in a statement.

The protests are over a pipeline through the interior of B.C: The $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline is to run some 670 kilometres from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat, on the northwestern B.C. coast, where a major, $40-billion natural gas project is underway.

Elected band councils have signed agreements with Coastal GasLink Pipleline Ltd., a subsidiary of TC Energy (formerly TransCanada Corp.) for the pipeline, but the hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs, who claim jurisdiction over 22,000 square kilometres of the B.C. interior, object to the project. For  years, the hereditary chiefs have been attempting to block access to construction sites. The matter heated up when, earlier this week, the RCMP cleared out the final blockades to the pipeline construction sites.

In preparation for Friday’s protests in Victoria, Darryl Plecas, speaker of the B.C. legislature, sought and won an injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court, barring protesters from blocking or “physically barring” access to the legislative precinct. Earlier in the week, as legislators returned to work, protesters blocked access, shouting “shame!” and leading B.C. Premier John Horgan to condemn the protests.
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