Update, Feb. 20, 2:50 p.m.
Protesters involved in a blockade on CP Rail tracks between Salmon Arm and Kamloops say they will be there as long as it takes.
The blockade was set up directly across from the Neskonlith Hall, west of Chase, on Thursday morning (Feb. 20.)
Protesters parked a silver van across the tracks and lit a sacred fire next to them, representing the unity of all First Nations in the province.
One of the approximately seven protesters said the blockade was created in solidarity with the Unist’ot’en Campm, which is protesting the construction of an LNG pipeline poised to run through Wet’suwet’en territory on the westcoast of B.C.
The blockade drew the attention of Canadian Pacific police who, in a video posted to social media earlier the same morning, told protesters they were trespassing on private property.
Similar railway blockades have drawn sharp criticism from federal Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer and other Conservative leadership candidates like Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay.
Every passing day that Justin Trudeau ignores law-breaking brings us another day closer to vigilantism and violence.
We need leadership today. https://t.co/3KCCAINCn8
— Erin O'Toole (@ErinOTooleMP) February 19, 2020
The police need to enforce the law and clear these blockades. pic.twitter.com/Ts90uKChVT
— Peter MacKay (@PeterMacKay) February 20, 2020
One protester, who did not provide their name, took a moment to address the criticism.
“We share your frustration, we are also very very frustrated and none of us really want to be out here doing these kinds of things,” they said. “We don’t want to be out here stopping traffic in order to get conversations going but we’ve been pressed to this extent that this is what we have to do.”
The protester went on to say the goal of the blockade is to garner support from the public.
“They do really have to understand that most of B.C., if not all of it, is unceded and unsurrendered. There’s no legal jurisdiction here for the RCMP or the government,” they said.
Hereditary leaders in the Shuswap have created a blockade on the train tracks across from the Neskonlith Band office in Chase. Protestors say the blockade was created in support of the wet'suwet'en protest in Northern B.C. pic.twitter.com/ntqfFj6dt7
— Cameron Thomson (@CameronJHT) February 20, 2020
Another protester, who also wished to remain anonymous, addressed the symbolism of the fire lit near the tracks.
“The sacred fire is uniting all sacred fires together, so one is not just different from the other,” they said. “We’re all here as our representatives of our nation and upholding our duty to the land to the water to the people to the children, so that’s the symbolic gesture of the sacred fire.”
When asked how long the blockade would stay on the tracks, the protester said the group will stay until it has achieved its goal of having the RCMP removed from Wet’suwet’en territory.
A representative from CP Rail said CP is monitoring the situation.
The proposed 670 kilometre pipeline is expected to move natural gas from Dawson Creek to the newly-approved LNG Canada export facility near Kitimat. Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with 20 elected First Nations along the pipeline’s route, but Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say the company has no authority without their consent.
With files by Smithers Interior News