The province is defending its decision to invite protesters inside the B.C. Legislature for a meeting that resulted in a sit-in and multiple arrests, as supporters of those arrested gathered in front of the building again Thursday morning.
Seven members of the group Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en met with government officials in the building, which is closed to the public, on Wednesday. Five of them were arrested in the evening after refusing to leave the building and staging a sit-in protest.
Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser says the youth had requested the meeting.
“I’m very, very disappointed with the outcome,” said Fraser.
Fraser agreed to let the group in on the condition that they leave afterwards — which he says they promised to do. He described the meeting as productive and respectful.
The demonstrators said they met with Fraser to discuss the ongoing dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C. which is under construction on traditional Wet’suwet’en territory. But they don’t believe their concerns were addressed.
Wet’suwet’en prepare for clan meetings to discuss rights and title proposal.
Ta’kaiya Blaney, one of the Indigenous youth at the meeting, says the group decided to stay in the office because of a “lack of commitment to condemn Coastal GasLink.” She described the sit-in as a peaceful protest to generate accountability.
“This wouldn’t have had to happen if Canada had exhausted all avenues, if [Premier] John Hogan had met with hereditary chiefs, if diplomacy was adhered to,” she said over a loudspeaker to a crowd in front of the Legislature on Thursday.
“Instead, this is what we do out of necessity. This is what we do out of survival.”
Interim Green Party Leader Adam Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip First Nation, attended the meeting as a witness. He says he is “disappointed” but also concerned that the sit-in and subsequent arrests overshadow the meeting.
“What I take away from that meeting is the youth did a really good job articulating the challenges that are facing Indigenous people in our country and our province,” he said.
“[The outcome] overshadows it in the sense that this is now the story. What the story should be, I think, is that we are sitting down and learning from each other.
Blaney said the Indigenous youth are leaving the legislature but their movement for the rights of Aboriginal peoples continues.
B.C.’s Indigenous Affairs minister defends meeting with Indigenous youth in Legislature despite 5 arrests. Dozens of demonstrators packed up Thursday, ending their 17-day protest. CBC News · Posted: Mar 05, 2020