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Toronto action in support of the pipeline blockade in Wet'suwet'en territory in northern BC shut down a rail line in Vaughan Saturday. Here's how events unfolded.
10:10 am: About 100 people meet at Matt Cohen Park on the southeast corner of Spadina and Bloor on Saturday (February 15) to take part in an “Emergency Action to stop RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory” organized by Rising Tide Toronto and Porcupine Warriors.
Rising Tide Toronto is “a grassroots collective that challenges environmental injustice and the root causes of climate change on Turtle Island through direct action in solidarity with people’s struggles locally and globally.”
Porcupine Warriors is “a collective of Indigenous Land Defenders and Water Protectors based in Toronto.”
The Wet’suwet’en of northern BC have been locked in a decade-long battle with the BC and federal governments over plans to build the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat. Raids by RCMP on blockades set up by the Wet’suwet’en to block the project have sparked protests across the country. While some band councils along the proposed route of the pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory support the project, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a landmark case in 1997 that the Wet’suwet’en never relinquished title to 22,000-square-kilometres of territory in northern BC. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs proposed an alternate route for the gas line, but that was rejected by Coastal GasLink.
10:15 am: The gathering is told of a plan to travel as a group by TTC to the Macmillan Yard in Vaughan just outside the Pioneer Village subway station. The plan is to shut down rail traffic at what is Canada’s second-busiest rail terminus. Other demonstrators will travel by car to the yard. The group is told to expect a police presence but also assured that they don’t have to do anything they aren’t comfortable with.
10:20 am: A group bearing signs and banners march north on Spadina to the north entrance of Spadina subway station.
There is a lot of energy on the subway and chanting. Demonstrators are offered forms on which they can write their personal details in the event they are arrested. They are told that legal counsel will be offered pro bono by supporters of the demonstration.
11 am: Demonstrators arrive at Pioneer Village subway station. They march some 20 to 25 minutes north to the Macmillan Yard beside the Vaughan Mills shopping centre, where they gather at the edge of a parking lot. There are well over 200 demonstrators when we arrive.
There are more speeches before demonstrators are directed by organizers past the yard fence. They must climb past a freight train sitting on the tracks to get to the other side. This whole process is well-organized and safely facilitated by volunteers.
Loud applause breaks out when they all get to the other side of the tracks where GO service operates. The presence of the demonstrators forces GO to suspend rail traffic on the line for the day.
12:30 pm: A small contingent leaves the main demonstration to block another area of the line one kilometre east.
1 pm: There are no police to be seen near the tracks, although there was a significant presence in the parking lot when demonstrators left Pioneer Village subway station.
3 pm: A handful of police show up to serve demonstrators with an injunction from CN rail ordering them off the tracks. The document is tossed in a camp fire demonstrators have started to keep warm.
6:20 pm: The demonstration ends. There are no arrests, but some demonstrators leaving in cars are pulled over by police on the way out. The demonstration is one of dozens that will be held across the country. In Tyindenaga territory near Belleville, demonstrations have been ongoing for 11 days.