In the wake of an obvious disregard for indigenous rights by both provincial and federal governments resulting in the non-violent occupation of rail lines nationwide, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed reporters claiming that, “Canadians have been patient, [the Canadian] government has been patient, but it has been 2 weeks and the barricades need to come down now” (Feb. 21).
Rail line occupations in B.C., Ontario, and Quebec have been staged by activists in support of the rights and freedoms of the Wet’suwet’en peoples; showing sympathy to the requests of hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs concerning Coastal Gaslink’s $6.6 billion pipeline project, slated to pass through unceded traditional Wet’suwet’en territory without Wet’suwet’en permission.
On Feb. 6 heavily militarized RCMP invaded unceded Wet’suwet’en territory at the Gidimt’en Yintah access checkpoint in the hopes of ousting remaining opposition to the Coastal Gaslink pipeline. Around 4:30 am armed officers forcefully arrested six individuals on Wet’suwet’en land—convincing many of the Indigenous proclaimed death of Canadian promised reconciliation.
Until the recent rail line occupations, non-violent protests across Canada have been taken less than seriously. Organizations and corporations have been obtaining court injunctions to implement ‘protest-free zones’ in the hopes of discouraging the disgruntled. Although court injunctions have resulted in arrests, protests have maintained pressure causing extended monetary penalties (some $425 Million).
Successful non-violent protests are only successful if they succeed in inconveniencing the powers to be and continue to do so, as activists in Canada have done and continue to do. Causing extended monetary penalties and consistent pressures are crucial to non-violent protest because Governments, such as Trudeau’s, can not outlast consistent pressure.
It seems some Canadians, especially those obtaining injunctions in the hopes of stifling protests, have somehow misremembered that we, as Canadians, have the right to assemble peacefully. Rail line occupations represent substantial, real-life, gritty protests in which average citizens have the ability to provoke governments that might otherwise ignore their demands.
Indigenous individuals and supporters of their cause are using what agency they have left to fight back and take a stand against centuries of injustice. They have asked that we, as Canadians, stand by them in this fight, if only in support of basic and fundamental human rights. Many have joined them in this fight as of recently and have dug into what Indigenous individuals are calling an awakening.