Five arrested after refusing to leave B.C. Legislature building

Wet’suwet’en activists says discussions ‘broke down’ with Indigenous relations minister

Five members of the group occupying the BC Legislature building were arrested and removed from the building Wednesday night following a meeting with Scott Fraser, minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation.

In a series of social media posts, members of ‘Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en’ – the organizing force behind two occupations of the government building – say seven of its members were invited to speak with Fraser “to discuss the Wet’suwet’en struggle.”

READ ALSO: Students walk out of class, gather in Victoria in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

The group writes that “after a number of hours, discussions broke down” when they failed to come to an agreement that the RCMP and Coastal GasLink remove themselves from Wet’suwet’en territory.

They then say that five of the seven people invited inside the legislature were “violently arrested after hours of detainment inside parliament.”

But the office for the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation says the group was invited in on the condition they would leave following the meeting. But the Ministry says that after an hour and a half of respectful discussion, “the individuals reneged on their agreement and made it clear that they would not leave the building as agreed.”

“We are disappointed they did not honour their commitment,” says Sarah Plank, the Ministry’s communications director. “Regretfully, this became a security matter that was handled by the independent body of the legislature.”

Fraser and witness MLA Adam Olsen had reportedly left the building by this time.

According to the Victoria Police Department, five people were arrested for mischief just after 9 p.m.

“Protesters called for others to surround the Legislature building,” says Bowen Osoko, VicPD community engagement officer. “The protesters actively obstructed officers. With the large crowd, it took several hours for our officers to be able safely transport the protesters to VicPD Headquarters.”

Osoko said there were no injuries and “officers used the minimum amount of force needed to safely affect the arrests. There was no violence.”

VicPD says the five arrested were transported to cells for processing and released on conditions they don’t return to the legislature grounds. The mischief investigations are ongoing.

Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en have taken to social media to share their account of the evening, writing that they are “asking Canada and all of its citizens to remove the veil of silence when Indigenous bodies are being forcibly removed from unceded lands by the state.”

“Reconciliation can’t only apply when saying yes,” they write on Twitter. “Reconciliation is dead. The revolution is alive. The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”

The group has occupied the space twice in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in opposition of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Their demands include the withdrawal of RCMP and Coastal GasLink from Wet’su’wet’en territories and an end to the “criminalization of all peaceful Indigenous solidarity actions and blockades.”

The current sit-in started Feb. 24 under the restrictions of an injunction requested by Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Darryl Plecas. The injunction prohibits demonstrators from blocking entry ways or interfering with CCTV cameras.

READ ALSO: Indigenous youth occupy B.C. Legislature steps amidst court injunction

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“No relationship is more important to our government and to Canada than the one with Indigenous peoples. Today, we reaffirm our government’s commitment to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples, one based on the recognition of rights, respect, trust, co-operation, and partnership.” • • These were the empty words of @justinpjtrudeau on #NationalAboriginalDay in 2016. That statement, along with the rest of his hollow speech, could not be further from the truth. We have now seen over 173 unlawful arrests, of #Wetsuweten & #Indigenous peoples and allies & supporters. The demands of the Hereditary chiefs have been simple: remove @rcmpgrcpolice @bcrcmp & #cgl from our yintah, and have @johnhorgan4bc and/or trudeau meet with our Hereditary chiefs in nation-to-nation talks. They have refused to do so. • • There was NO response, until #HumanRights defenders, #LandDefenders, #WaterProtectors and #ClimateCrisis #Activists started to #RiseUp & #ShutDownCanada en masse. In an act of good faith, Hereditary chiefs agreed to engage with ministers as the government representatives… however, the rcmp did NOT leave the territories during this time – and cgl did NOT cease work. • • Last night, @indigenousyouthforwetsuweten met with Scott Fraser – the minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation. They reiterated the chiefs demands. S. Fraser responded that the rcmp will NOT be leaving the territories, CGL will NOT stop work… and instead of calling for nation-to-nation talks, or allowing for peaceful occupation, the Vic PD arrested and detained 5 indigenous youth from several different nations. • • We are sovereign peoples. The acts of the colonial government say: corporations & industry take priority over people; that Indigenous peoples will not be respected as equals; that climate action is not being taken; and that if you choose to speak out you will be criminalized. • We will NOT back down… we will continue to stand for the rights of generations to come – and we ask you to continue to stand with us ✊🏽❤️ Masih cyoh ✊🏽❤️ • • #WetsuwetenStrong #ReconciliationIsDead #FightForOurFuture Vid cred: @tapioca_starch

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nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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