Indigenous protesters in Niagara, today blocked the Rainbow Bridge to show their support for Hereditary Chiefs of Wet’suwet’en over pipeline construction on their land.
The peaceful protest started at the intersection of Stanley Avenue and Highway 420 with prayers, speeches and dances.
They marched down Highway 420 to the Rainbow Bridge where a circle was formed in front of the gateway bridge to USA.
Protests against the gas pipeline have resulted in the shutdown of the CN Rail and the VIA Rail in some parts of the country thereby impacting commerce, as well as transportation of goods and passengers.
The problem of portable water in Indigenous communities repeatedly came up during the speeches.
Wendy Sturgeon, a respected Indigenous community member in Niagara, said the destruction of portable water in the Indigenous land should be addressed forthwith. The march, she explained, was in honour of all ancestors and descendants. She was at the parade with her special spring water, which she carries during walks and marches. “Water is life, water is life, we cannot live without it. If you destroy the water, we destroy ourselves,” she said.
Deane, a speaker at the solidarity march, was very critical of the response of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, RCMP. “The RCMP is occupying an unceded land in Wet’suwet’en.”
“That is not Canada, you are not allowed there, you are not welcomed. That is why we are here today. We will keep demonstrating until the RCMP leaves the Wet’suwet’en land.”
She said the word reconciliation is a “propaganda” used by the government against the community. She noted that there were words spoken by government officials on reconciliation without any concrete steps to reconcile.
Political leaders who have asked Indigenous protesters across the country to obey Canada’s rule of law during their protests were criticized for their rhetoric.
Sean Vanderklis, one of the organizers of the demonstration was critical of political rhetoric asking Indigenous people to respect Canada’s rule of law. He cited various instances when Canada’s rule of law became a tool used to hurt Indigenous people.
“We are governed by the Indian Act. That is the rule of law.
“Residential school in Canada, That was the rule of law.
“Child apprehension. The government was too ‘lazy’ to deal with it. That is the rule of law.
“The theft of our land. That was the rule of law.”
He noted that the Indigenous community was unable to deal with the problem properly because it was then ‘illegal’ for the indigenous people to hire a lawyer to defend their rights.
He said other issues that needed reconciliation were missing indigenous women, lack of drinking water in the First Nations, over incarceration of Indigenous people and child apprehension.
“They are taking our children, they are putting them in other homes, being raised without their cultural connections,” he noted.
The activist gave kudos to the Niagara Regional Police for help rendered in organizing the peaceful demonstration. The shutdown of Highway 420 leading to the Rainbow bridge rally took about 2 hours on a busy Sunday afternoon.