Montreal marches in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders

Protestors met with sunny skies, frigid temperatures and riot police

Police intervene at a Wet’suwet’en land defender solidarity march on Nov. 27. Photo by Jordan McKay.

Hundreds gathered at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Quebec headquarters bearing banners, signs, and flags to demand Canada shut down the Coastal GasLink Energy East pipeline and end RCMP violence in northern British Columbia. Before the march started, a protester burned the Canadian flag. 

Organized by the Convergence des luttes anti-capitalistes, Montreal’s solidarity march comes after a violent RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territories. The latest in a series of raids saw RCMP officers break down the doors of land defenders with axes and chainsaws. The RCMP arrested 14 people including two journalists which sparked national outrage and criticisms of the RCMP. These raids are in response to a 2019 court order by The Supreme Court of British Columbia which called for an end to land defenders blockades of the Coastal GasLink’s work. 

The CLAC refused to speak to the press but handed out leaflets describing the land defenders’ opposition to the project. The coastal GasLink project requires access to the Wet’suwet’en territory in order to drill a tunnel under the Wedzin Kwa river. Land defenders claim any leaks in the river would permanently endanger the Wet’suwet’en people by harming the river’s salmon population. 

The peaceful protest kicked off with drums from Marlene Hale, a Montreal-based Wet’suwet’en elder. She was joined by people of all ages from elementary school children to senior citizens. In a speech to the crowd she spoke against the RCMP and CGL.

“Let’s let the RCMP know, ‘Shame on you… Go away!’”  

She reflected on the continued Indigenous struggles, past to present. From the fight for land rights, the colonial fights of her ancestors, to the thousands of mass graves of indigenous children from all across Canada. 

“I burn sage, I burn sweetgrass,” she told the crowd. “I also burn the Indian Act.”

Protestors march in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders on Nov. 27. Photo by Jordan McKay.

Shortly after the speeches demonstrators began their march. The protesters chanted along the streets of downtown Montreal surrounded by the SPVM who donned riot gear and brandished weapons. 

“How do you spell racist?” A protester asked the crowd. “RCMP,” they screamed. 

The demonstration saw appearances from a number of community groups like Independent Jewish Voices Montreal and pro-marxist group Fightback. They came to show support for the Wet’suwet’en peoples fight for their land. 

“The coastal gasoline pipeline has no business on Wet'suwet'en territory,” said Darcy ​​Seekaskootch, a Cree activist with Fightback. “[Indigenous Peoples] should not be treated as criminals for defending their own traditional lands.”

Eve Saint, a land protector and daughter of Chief Woos, a Wet'suwet'en' hereditary chief for the Cas Yikh, or Grizzly Bear House, of the Gidim'ten clan also joined the protest. 

“They want us off our land so they can steal it. It’s stolen land. They want us dead [...] This is Chief Woos territory. We said no pipeline, no consent,” she told the crowd. “Why are we gonna obey a government that wants us all dead? All of us. It doesn’t matter what color skin you’re in, they want us dead, all of us. Because they prioritize a pipeline over human lives.”

“Shame!” the crowd responded. 

Police marched on the sidewalks, attempting to keep demonstrators on the roads. They pushed and shoved those who got too close but the march stayed peaceful for hours. 

At around 4 p.m., the protest was declared illegal and tear gas was released on protestors. Shortly afterwards police made their first arrests. Two protestors were violently thrown to the ground and arrested. The protestors had been holding a banner when riot police cut across their path. Protestors continued moving forward despite the attempt by police to cage them which resulted in the arrests. 

“Let them go,” the crowd chanted at officers following the arrest of two non-violent people. 

According to Officer Caroline Chèvrefils, the SPVM arrested four protestors for obstructing the work of a police officer, with one of them also arrested for assault.