A rally plans to partially block the Westmorland Street Bridge on Tuesday in support of a northern B.C. First Nation fighting to stop pipeline companies from accessing their traditional land.
Kyanna Kingbird, a student at St. Thomas University majoring in criminology and sociology, is the organizer of the rally. She is originally from Esgenoôpetitj First Nation and works at Indigenous Student Services on campus.
“The Canadian government is showing violence to Indigenous peoples, who attempt to assert sovereignty on their own lands, by attempting to stop a pipeline from passing through their own land,” Kingbird said.
Wet'suwet'en First Nation members have set up checkpoints on a bridge and a remote stretch of road preventing pipeline company workers from accessing their traditional territory, which is located about 300 kilometres west of Prince George, B.C.
Police entered one checkpoint and arrested 14 people on Monday, enforcing a court injunction issued last month which ordered people to stop blocking the area. Following three days of talks, the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs reached an agreement on Thursday with the RCMP concerning a temporary injunction.
TransCanada Corp., the company running the pipeline project, has said it signed agreements with all First Nations along the proposed route. But the hereditary leaders say those agreements don't apply to the traditional territories.
Kingbird said she is primarily only hearing about the issue amongst Indigenous students on campus, and hopes to more people will feel compelled to learn more after witnessing the demonstration. She said she was asked to take the lead on organizing the event by an elder.
“This rally is really a way of showing solidarity and support to the people of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, and a way of bringing light and attention to this issue,” Kingbird said.
Kingbird said demonstrators plan to gather downtown at Officer’s Square and will walk onto St. Anne’s Point Drive in the northbound lane of traffic at around noon. The rally will make its way onto the bridge ramp and cross to the northside, before returning in the southbound lane.
The blockade will be accompanied by a police escort to ensure the safety of participants, according to Kingbird.
“It’s really a matter of slowing down traffic so people will be able to see the signs and see what the blockade is for,” she said.
Fredericton Police did not respond to a request for comment about the rally and partial blockade.
The demonstration will be the second Fredericton-area event connected to the anti-pipeline camp in the past few days. Around 20 people gathered on the University of New Brunswick campus for a prayer vigil and discussion on Friday.
“For those who are aware of it, it’s frustrating because you might be going around your day-to-day life or sitting in class, and nobody around you knows,” Kingbird said.