Police have surrounded between 50 and 60 Indigenous youth who are blocking the Port of Vancouver in solidarity with Stacy Gallagher, an Indigenous land defender who was sentenced on Tuesday to 90 days in jail after conducting ceremony at a Trans Mountain pipeline site.
Braided Warriors, an Indigenous youth-led group committed to nonviolent direct action against the Trans Mountain pipeline, and their supporters are among those at the site.
The youth have been on site since Tuesday evening and Sii-am said they plan to stay until Gallagher is released. “Stacy, we see you, we love you, you'll be free soon,” said Sii-am, a Braided Warriors supporter at the port.
Police arrived on scene just after 5 a.m. local time, said Sii-am, who did not want her last name published, fearing police action.
Vancouver police have “surrounded a four-block radius. They have patrol cars and paddy wagons and undercover cars, and are moving closer into the blockade,” she said. “It’s an intimidating night with them surrounding us.”
Sgt. Steve Addison, a Vancouver police spokesperson, said the demonstrations are peaceful and there have been no arrests. “Officers are working hard to provide a safe environment for peaceful demonstration. This includes blocking and diverting traffic from the area,” Addison said.
Gallagher is one of more than 200 people, many Indigenous, who have been arrested for mobilizing against the $12.6 billion pipeline. Since 2018, Trans Mountain has had an injunction that makes it illegal for people to obstruct construction along the pipeline’s route. It’s up to the company to report activities in breach of the injunction, and police to enforce it. They’re supposed to issue a warning and give time for people in breach of it to leave the site voluntarily, according to a five-step process, but that did not happen in Gallagher’s case.
Gallagher and Indigenous elder Jim Leyden were convicted of criminal contempt for spending time and performing ceremony along the Trans Mountain pipeline route on three separate occasions in 2019. They were always peaceful, fellow land defenders said, adding non-Indigenous people were on site too, but weren’t criminally charged.
Sii-am said Gallagher’s conviction and jail time runs counter to Indigenous laws. “We do not acknowledge the court's authority over sovereign people who are protecting our lands,” Sii-am said. “We are really going forward and following our Indigenous laws and trusting our teachings.”
West Coast Environmental Law staff attorney Eugene Kung questioned whether Indigenous people are being unfairly targeted. “There were other non-Indigenous folks there, also presumably caught on camera but now not caught up in the contempt proceedings. So, is there a degree of (anti-Indigenous) targeting happening? That, to me, is a fair question to ask,” Kung previously told VICE World News.
In May 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline, despite repeatedly promising to uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which requires “free, prior, and informed consent” from Indigenous communities ahead of development on their territories. Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and Coldwater Indian Band have opposed the pipeline in court.
The B.C. government and several municipalities across its route are also against the project.
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