Watching pipeline protesters surrender to police in northern B.C. was an emotional experience for Kwantlen Student Association president Joseph Thorpe.
“I started crying when I saw it for the first time,” said Thorpe, who is Métis and of Cree ancestry.
“It was sad that these people [have been] forced to defend themselves.”
Thorpe told Black Press he was watching a television news report that showed people giving themselves up Monday when officers arrived at the blockade that was preventing access to a pipeline to arrest 14 for allegedly violating a court order to stay away from the work sites.
Protesters had set up two anti-pipeline camps southwest of Smithers to block the project being built by TransCanada subsidiary Coastal GasLink to carry natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat.
A statement supporting the protest was issued Friday by the Kwantlen Student Association, which represents over 20,000 people enrolled at Kwantlen Polytechnic University campuses in Langley, Cloverdale, Surrey and Richmond.
It was signed by Thorpe and indigenous student representative Sarah Strachan, who is Tet’lit Gwich’in and a member of the Gwich’in First Nation.
“We are disappointed in Canada’s actions,” they said.
“The government needs to take a hard look at their efforts of reconciliation and how this current action could be detrimental to the relationship Indigenous peoples have with Canada. “
“Canada has no claim to the land in British Columbia, as there was no treaty or agreement signed,” the statement said, and the arrests are “unjust.”
Thorpe said there are plans for a meeting of indigenous students from the various Kwantlen locations, to talk about the protest and plan future action.
An RCMP statement about the arrests at the Gitdumt’en checkpoint on Morice West Forest Service Road said police acted because they realized the matter couldn’t be resolved.
Streets are PACKED in Downtown Vancouver as hundreds of pipeline protestors rally against #CoastalGasLink and for #WetsuwetenStrong. @VancouverPD are out in full force, directing traffic away from the rally. So for, they don’t seem to be interrupting. @BlackPressMedia #bcpoli pic.twitter.com/81CrTV2PGU
— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) January 8, 2019
Hundreds of people took to the streets of downtown Vancouver and packed Victory Square on Tuesday in solidarity with the pipeline blockade.
It was one of dozens held across Canada and the United States. It remained peaceful, with dozens of police officers directing marchers and holding back traffic.
Indigenous band councils along the route have approve the project, but some hereditary chiefs remain opposed.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said all five Wet’suwet’en clans, including the Gidimt’en, oppose the construction of oil and gas pipelines in their territory.
In December, the B.C. Supreme Court ordered the removal of any obstructions interfering with the Coastal GasLink project.