Indigenous youth and allies in support of Wet’suwet’en have been in the Justice building at Wellington Street for over a day but they have set a deadline for the Attorney General to plan a meeting with Wet’suwet’en. They’re working on their next steps if they don’t see meaningful action from the Minister by Wednesday morning.
“We’ll cease as there’s nowhere further to go and that will be sufficient response,” says Madeleine Ienerahtahawi Kelly. “We’ll consider further steps.”
She has been at the sit-in since the group first occupied the Justice building yesterday. The group that helmed the briefing Tuesday says that if they do halt the sit-in, that doesn’t mean they stop standing in solidarity. A contingent is still at the Wellington building while they wait to hear back from the Minister.
They say they’re planning group meetings, mobilizing and figuring out their next steps.
Reconciliation is dead: Some say the word has lost its meaning
Tuesday night the Justice Minister’s office shared a statement with ELMNT calling reconciliation, “a crucial priority for our Government and our country.” His office says the Minister is committed to bringing their demands to cabinet.
“It is obviously ineffective to try and talk to someone who is not committed to reconciliation, which is his job,” says Sophia Sidarous. “We’re giving him 24 hours to do his job.”
The Wet’suwet’en supporters say a cabinet meeting could be on the books by Wednesday morning, but that isn’t enough. A previous story from ELMNT FM shares those demands which includes ensuring the RCMP do not use any force in Northern British Columbia. Anything less than that puts the future of reconciliation at stake, the group told reporters.
Some of the group told ELMNT they already believe reconciliation to be dead, with many saying governments continue to co-opt the term to further their own agendas.
“We will declare the federal government has refused action to actually implement reconciliation and that future reconciliation should immediately stop because reconciliation is meaningless if it is not applied to situations and human rights violations that are happening right now,” says Sidarous.
The Minister’s office told ELMNT reconciliation is a responsibility that Minister Lametti takes seriously. The statement says this includes working hand in hand with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to move forward on shared priorities like the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Morale Remains Strong
The group who spent well over a day in the downtown government building say they are a little sweatier, smellier and sleepier than when they first arrived, but their spirits are high.
“I’ll say social media has been very powerful,” says Kelly. Her phone was buzzing with supportive messages while she spoke to ELMNT.
That support has come in many forms: the group has more than enough food, people have stood outside the building in solidarity and many have donated their own money.
“That willingness of people to offer is just really lovely and it shows many Canadians really do care about these human rights violations and they do care about contributing to an effort to address it,” says Kelly.
It isn’t just the outside support that has helped boost morale, the group say they feel a kinship with the efforts across the country.
From the sit-in at Crown Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett’s Toronto office to the Tyendinaga rail line shutdown, they youth know they aren’t alone.
They also spoke with very the Nation they are supporting; the youth told reporters they spoke with Wet’suwet’en Monday night.
Gearing up for Wednesday’s press conference, Indigenous youth and allies say they are trying to uphold Canadian laws and legislation that has been backed by the United Nations.
Sidarous says this moment is just as much about building a future as it is learning from the past.
“Maybe Justin Trudeau wants some grandchildren, you need to leave them a world that’s livable.”