BORDEN-CARLETON, P.E.I. – Protesters have set up camp near the Confederation Bridge in support of the Wet'suwet'en Nations protests in B.C.
The group, mostly comprised of residents from L’nui Mnikuk First Nation, have been peacefully protesting since noon in Borden-Carleton. They have a small fire for warmth, while RCMP guide traffic through.
Protester Chance Banks said this area was selected to raise awareness and not shut down the bridge.
“Our protest is to open peoples' eyes about the pipeline. For me to be here, being a drumkeeper, I have a responsibility to respect the land, people, and everything around us. Even respect our ‘rule of law',” he said.
Banks said protesters across the country have faced challenges.
“They (protesters) have been pushed and even bulldozed, and I want to say to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, follow your own words. I want the prime minister to practice what he preaches and to follow the rule of law."
Statement by the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils
First Nations chief Darlene Bernard and chief Junior Gould issued the following Epekwitk Assembly of Councils statement regarding the protest currently underway at the Confederation Bridge:
“We understand that the grassroots protest presently underway at the Confederation Bridge is peaceful and is not intended to block traffic on or off the Island. We support our Mi’kmaq people in raising awareness and showing support for our sisters and brothers across the country.
"The issue related to the Wet’suwet’en and the Coastal GasLink pipeline is complex.
"We respect the environmental concerns raised by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chiefs and we also acknowledge and respect the decisions made by over twenty First Nations, including most Wet’suwet’en First Nations, that have signed impact benefits agreements with C.G.L. and currently support the pipeline.
"We also respect the authority and decision-making process of the Wet’suwet’en people.
"Most importantly, we believe that this issue should be resolved peacefully, without violence and within the law. We urge continued dialogue between all parties.
"What Islanders and Canadians need to understand is that these protests happening across the country and now in P.E.I. are about more than just the Wet’suwet’en situation, they are about centuries of Canada’s Indigenous people being denied access to the land and resources, they are about centuries of economic and social marginalization.
"The Mi’kmaq of P.E.I. and the Provincial Government has taken great strides recently towards reconciliation, and we intend to continue on that path. The rule of law in Canada includes the respect and recognition of Aboriginal and treaty rights.”
Protesting for 24 hours
Protesters said they would be stationed at the intersection for the next 24 hours, playing a traditional sacred drum.
Protesters have set up camp near the Confed’ Bridge in support of the Wet’suwet’en protests in B.C. Drumkeepers play and sing traditional Mi’kmaq songs. Video by Desiree Anstey/Journal Pioneer https://t.co/SVrhs6bRsT— Ernesto Carranza (@Ernesto_Carranz) February 16, 2020
Banks said the group is “appreciative of the P.E.I. RCMP helping to control traffic and keep the event peaceful.”
Many across the country have been critical of RCMP and federal government responses to the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s blockades against the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.
The pipeline would carry natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to a facility near Kitimat, through traditional Wet’suwet’en Nation territory, where it will be processed.
The B.C. protests were highly publicized in past weeks, sparking protests of solidarity across the country and shutting down Canadian railways and ports.
On Saturday afternoon, around 100 protesters from all over Charlottetown gathered in front of Province House, to show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en pipeline protesters in B.C.
Gilbert Sark, one of the protesters at Confederation Bridge, said more people would be joining them throughout the night.
“We are expecting more people over the 24-hours. But everything about this protest was done in secret because we wanted to set everything up before the P.E.I. RCMP got a hold of it. Now, people are coming and learning,” said Sark.
Smudging happened on-site while a drumbeat accompanied ceremonial songs.
“The drum itself is the heartbeat of our people. It has to continue beating because when the drumbeat stops, it symbolizes our people are dead, so the drum is a part of every ceremony. And we are singing honour songs about the unity to accompany the drumbeat."
This is the second solidarity protest in as many days for the Island as Indigenous and non-Indigenous folx make their way to high traffic areas. Video by Desiree Anstey/Journal Pioneer https://t.co/UUqcyEuo81— Ernesto Carranza (@Ernesto_Carranz) February 16, 2020
The protesters will disperse Monday afternoon.
Deborah Jeffery was among them waving a sign of support that was greeted with honking from passing traffic.
“Water is life, and we all have to stick together,” she said.