Anti-pipeline protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs continued on Sunday, this time in Niagara Falls, Ont., as demonstrators stopped traffic at Rainbow International Bridge.
The bridge leads to a Canada-U.S. border crossing that sees thousands of visitors a day.
According to CTV News, around 200 protesters came together starting at 2 p.m. near Highway 420 and Stanley Avenue. By 3 p.m., demonstrators marched to the entrance of the bridge, which interfered with travellers who were trying to make their way over to the United States.
Protesters block traffic in Niagara Falls in support of Hereditary Chiefs on blockade of pipeline in B.C. pic.twitter.com/cFmCDX7vpn— Edward Akinwunmi (@edmosaicedition) February 16, 2020
Expect delays if you’re traveling over the Rainbow Bridge. Members of the indigenous community are holding a demonstration right now near the bridge on the Canadian side. These people are standing in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Nation. @news4buffalo pic.twitter.com/zSOhrUqEAb— Sarah Minkewicz (@SarahMinkewicz) February 16, 2020
We came together as a community to stand in solidarity with the #WetsuwetenNation. Today was special. Today, our voices were heard. #WetsuwetenStong #Solidarity #Indigenous #WaterIsLife pic.twitter.com/xdQOCac6mo— Sean Vanderklis (@SeanVanderklis) February 16, 2020
Protests have been forming all throughout the country, resulting notably in rail blockades that have forced CN Rail and Via Rail to cancel their routes.
These nationwide protests have been going on ever since the RCMP arrested protesters in British Columbia on Wet’suwet’en territory. The arrests were made because protesters weren’t allowing workers to access their job sites for the construction of Coastal GasLink’s gas pipeline, which runs through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory.
The pipeline has been approved by British Columbia’s provincial government, as well as five of the six band councils part of the Wet'suwet'en nation. Band councils are responsible for their own individual reserves within a territory.
The Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, who are responsible for the territory as a whole, maintain that they don’t want any pipeline to run through their land.
“This is about asserting Indigenous rights, asserting Indigenous sovereignty, to remind the government that they have a legal responsibility to us,” said Sean Vanderklis, who helped organize Sunday’s protest in Niagara Falls, to CTV News. “They can’t trample over our rights. They can’t come in and impose these injunctions without proper consultation.”
Vanderklis said they chose Rainbow Bridge for the protest, because the Canadian government has denied them access to their own Indigenous borders.
“We are asserting that we are sovereign and that we are capable of doing what they are capable of doing,” said Vanderklis. “If they are preventing people from coming in, we are going to prevent people from coming in.”
Signs of protests in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs also took place on the U.S. side of the border in Niagara.
Protesters gathered at Rainbow Blvd & First Street in Niagara Falls, NY to show their support for their brothers and sisters of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, who oppose the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in British Columbia, Canada. Similar protest held on the Canadian side. pic.twitter.com/WsFKh90Yp9— RobShots (@RobShots_) February 16, 2020
It’s unclear whether we’ll see more protests at Rainbow International Bridge in the upcoming days.