Indigenous rights protesters storm B.C. attorney general's office, target UBC

Anti-pipeline protesters occupied the office of Attorney General David Eby on Thursday, making staff feel their safety was being threatened. Jordan Armstrong reports.

Protesters supporting Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their opposition to a natural gas pipeline through northern B.C. chose a pair of new targets Thursday.

Several dozen demonstrators, who call themselves land and water protectors, gathered at the Kitsilano Community Centre before storming B.C. Attorney General David Eby‘s constituency office.

The group demanded a meeting with Eby and the withdrawal of the RCMP and Coastal GasLink from Wet’suwet’en territory.

“We’re currently occupying David Eby’s office to demand that this MLA and attorney general of British Columbia and Canada meet with us immediately,” organizer Natalie Knight said upon the group’s arrival Thursday morning.

“We are demanding that David Eby revoke the permits of the LNG Canada project, which is the overarching project that the Coastal GasLink pipeline fits within, we are demanding that he respect and recognize Wet’suswet’en law, and put pressure on the government to immediately withdraw the RCMP from Wet’suwet’en territories.”

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As protesters poured into the office, one staffer was so frightened she locked herself in the washroom until police arrived to escort her out of the building.

That reaction drew concern from Eby.

“We, at my office, try to go above and beyond to accommodate protesters,” said Eby.

“But the line for me is the safety of my staff, where that is jeopardized, and the security of the information we hold for constituents that we’re doing casework for, that’s priority one, and obviously making sure people feel safe and welcome when they visit our office.”

Around 4 p.m., the protesters finally left Eby’s office while leaving a list of demands on the attorney general’s desk.

Vancouver police said they were monitoring the demonstration, but no arrests were made during the hours-long demonstration.

“Our primary purpose is to protect the safety of the protestors, the public and the police,” said Sgt. Aaron Roed in an email.

“We respect peaceful protests and during public demonstrations, police response is proportionate to the activities observed.”

Drivers were being warned to expect possible traffic disruptions, after protesters shut down the Granville Street Bridge for hours on Wednesday, the intersection of Cambie Street and Broadway on Tuesday and access to the Port of Vancouver on Sunday and Monday.

Vancouver police arrested 43 people at the Port blockade after the facility sought a court injunction.

Another group of demonstrators blockaded the intersection of Wesbrook Mall and University Boulevard Thursday.

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The blockade forced TransLink to temporarily re-route several bus routes, including the 25, 33, 49, 480 R4 as a result.

On its Twitter account, UBC Students Against Bigotry — which said it had members participating but did not organize the action — said the demonstration was meant to bring “economic blockades to the provincial centre of colonial knowledge production.”

“The University is policed by the same RCMP who have violently invaded the Yintah to remove Indigenous people,” said the group.

UBC has hosted plenty of anti-Indigenous speakers. But more importantly, universities have long served as engines of genocide; from ignoring Indigenous peoples and their knowledges, to producing eurocentric knowledge and a colonial elite intent on eliminating them altogether.”

UBC said RCMP were on scene, and that it recognized the issue was a “complex dispute with strong differences in viewpoints.”

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Thursdays actions were just two of dozens of protests that have sprung up across the country since the RCMP moved into traditional, unceded Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C. to enforce a court injunction on behalf of the Coastal GasLink project.

The $6.6-billion project is meant to carry natural gas from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat.

The company has signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected Indigenous councils along the route.

But hereditary chiefs who oppose the project say elected councils only have jurisdiction over First Nations reserves. The hereditary chiefs claim authority over rights and title to land that was never covered by treaty.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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