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Rally for Wet’suwet’en on Truth and Reconciliation Day

Sept. 30 marks the second year the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation has been acknowledged in Canada. This year’s observation was highlighted by a rally held in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en First Nation of British Columbia, at the Canada Federal Court of Appeal in downtown Halifax. 

Understanding Wet’suwet’en

This rally was in support of Wet’suwet’en in their conflict against the Canadian government and RCMP, who have stood by Coastal GasLink and its proposed pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory. This conflict has been going on for more than a decade, but the fight to protect this territory against the pipeline began in earnest in 2018, according to a timeline provided by The Indigenous Foundation

Despite concerns over the legality of the pipeline and conflict between the provincial government of British Columbia, the federal government and the police, the pipeline is still set to be built through the territory. 

The enforcement of the pipeline construction by the RCMP has resulted in conflict between the police service and the Wetʼsuwetʼen nation. The Wetʼsuwetʼen have been attempting to block access to treaty land from Coastal GasLink and the RCMP, especially at the Unist’ot’en Camp on Wetʼsuwetʼen land. However, Coastal GasLink has continued to stand its ground, with pipeline construction already underway.

Eventually, the British Columbia Supreme Court issued an injunction against the land defenders, resulting in the arrest of approximately 80 individuals in February 2020. By November 2021, the situation had escalated to the point where the RCMP broke down the doors of a resistance camp and arrested those inside, including two journalists.

On the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, protestors attended a rally in support of Wet’suwet’en First Nation at the Canada Federal Court of Appeal downtown. While Dalhousie University hosted no events that day, the 12th annual Mawio’mi was held on campus on Oct. 5. (Sabine Antigua)

The solidarity rally

Emma Lou was at the rally on Sept. 30. She told the Gazette why she thought holding this rally on Truth and Reconciliation Day was important. 

“Coastal GasLink is going to drill into the Wetʼsuwetʼen headwaters, despite it being illegal under Wet’suwet’en treaty law,” she said, calling the territory’s waters some of the cleanest in Canada. “I think it’s really important on Truth and Reconciliation Day to show up to events, and support the defenders of treaty land and the grassroots work that they are doing.”

Sophia Sidarous was the protest organizer. Sidarous felt holding the rally on Truth and Reconciliation Day was significant. 

“It’s important to use this day as a day for settlers to connect with Indigenous and colonized people of Canada and to protest for real change,” Sidarous told the Gazette. “It’s super important to have Dalhousie University informed about things that are happening on treaty territory as well as inform the students so they can actively participate in a meaningful way.” 

(Sabine Antigua)

Dal and King’s reaffirm commitments to Truth and Reconciliation

Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College marked Truth and Reconciliation Day by cancelling classes. While no events were held on Dal campuses, King’s marked the day with a book launch of the fourth edition of We Were Not the Savages by Daniel N. Paul. 

Both institutions also renewed their commitments to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission this year, with both schools promising to build a stronger Indigenous and Mi’kmaq student population on campus. According to a newsletter from Dal on Sept. 29, four per cent of students, four per cent of staff and two per cent of additional faculty identify as Indigenous. Those percentages are from data collected in 2021.

While no events were held on Dal campuses on Sept. 30, the 12th annual Mawio’mi was held in the Studley Quad on Oct. 5. The Indigenous Student Centre at Dal ran the event.

(Sabine Antigua)

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