Climate Justice UBC, protestors demand charges dropped against Wet’suwet’en land defenders at Tuesday rally

On June 28, a group of protestors gathered outside BC Attorney General and MLA David Eby’s Broadway office to advocate against the criminalization of the 15 land defenders facing charges for protesting the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.

Banking on a Better Future and Sustainabiliteens organized the rally with support from Climate Justice UBC (CJUBC).

The rally opened with a land acknowledgement from Tsleil-Waututh land defender, educator and activist Cedar George Parker. Parker has been organizing for years against the TransMountain Pipeline (TMX) expansion into Tsleil-Waututh territory. He emphasized that land defenders protesting CGL and TMX are united in the same struggle against Canadian settler-colonialism.

“They’re working really hard to suppress this movement,” said Parker. “We’re not just going up against a company anymore — we're going up against a country.”

Other speakers included Pia Massie (an artist who was arrested in 2018 for protesting the TMX pipeline in Burnaby), Kwitsel Tatel (a Sto:lo Coast Salish land defender) and CJUBC organizers Naomi Leung and Naisha Khan.

Following the speeches, protestors used chalk and paint to write messages of solidarity with the land defenders and calls for the charges against them to be dropped.

Two protestors paint over a chalk-written message on the sidewalk in front of Eby's office.
Two protestors paint over a chalk-written message on the sidewalk in front of Eby's office. Nathan Bawaan / The Ubyssey

Second-year UBC student Naisha Khan said she helped to coordinate the protest in response to a call for solidarity from land defender Sleydo’ (also known as Molly Wickham), who is the spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Checkpoint on Wet’suwet’en territory. Sleydo’ is currently suing the RCMP and CGL for emotional duress.

“We’re here to take up space because we want to make it clear to David Eby that in an age of so-called reconciliation, charging land defenders for upholding Wet'suwet'en law and upholding their own rights is colonialism in action,” said Khan.

The CGL pipeline is slated to carry natural gas from northeastern BC to Kitimat, BC for processing. Although elected Wet’suwet’en officials endorse the project, land defenders have united behind the hereditary chiefs who oppose it as a non-consensual and environmentally-destructive imposition on their unceded territory.

Since 2019, there has been a BC Supreme Court injunction against protesters’ presence on Coastal GasLink pipeline construction sites, which allows the RCMP to arrest and criminalize land defenders — including 27 who were arrested in fall 2021. Fifteen of them are now facing charges for criminal contempt.

One of the signs put up by organizers at Tuesday's rally.
One of the signs put up by organizers at Tuesday's rally. Nathan Bawaan / The Ubyssey

“CJUBC is standing in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en land defenders who are facing criminal charges,” said CJUBC organizer Naomi Leung. “We’re asking David Eby and the court to drop all the charges.”

CJUBC organizers emphasized that by platforming RBC — which is the largest funder for the CGL project — UBC and the AMS are complicit in the CGL pipeline’s contributions to the climate crisis.

“If you have the ability to, switch to a credit union [such as] VanCity, because they don’t fund fossil fuel projects,” said Leung.

This article was updated at 10:19 a.m. on Friday, July 1, 2022 to include Tatel as one of the speakers.