Ottawa students walk out of class in support of Wet’suwet’en

While the federal government says negotiations have reached an agreement with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Indigenous youth and their allies say they are still fighting for the people and the land across the country.

“There’s one united effort to execute these walkouts in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en,” says Madeline Ienerahtahawi Kelly. “Their demands continue to be unmet.”

Kelly is one of the organizers who planned Wednesday’s walkout at Carleton University. Similar events are set for some high schools like Lisgar and Glebe Collegiate.

“The awareness of what’s been going on and what continues to go on has been increasing,” says Kelly. She says the walkout at Carleton is a group of communities coming together and says there is representation from about seven or eight student groups.

The walkout starts off with hand drumming and dancing, which Kelly says will set the stage for a great day.

Bringing the message to the government

Students at the University of Ottawa are walking out of class to a planned rally at Export Development Canada Wednesday afternoon. A spokeswoman for the rally says the group chose the location to call on the Prime Minister and Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Minister Mary Ng to reject public financing of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

That message is enhanced by petitions from three separate organizations, all calling on the federal government to not to use taxpayer money.

  • A petition from 350.org says Export Development Canada is considering using public money to finance the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
  • A petition from Oil Change International says the Coastal GasLink should not be under consideration for public financing.
  • A petition from Lead Now says financing the pipeline with public dollars does not reflect a reconciliation mandate.

Youth lead the movement

Kelly says the network of groups walking out care about what is happening to Indigenous peoples and the environmental consequences she says a project like the Coastal GasLink pipeline could have for the country.

“We all have been affected by what’s happening in some way and need it to end for our relatives,” Kelly says.

Kelly’s professors teach gender studies and Indigenous topics, so she says they understand what it’s like to navigate colonial structures. She also says they’ve been understanding about the action planned during class time.

Recent years have seen students walk out of class to stand up for causes – Ottawa has seen students leave for everything from class sizes in the province to climate change – but for

post-secondary students like Kelly, they do so knowing they could lose marks on things like attendance.

But she says Indigenous youth and their allies are learning how to mobilize, organize and lead, even if that puts them in challenging situations. Kelly says it’s no surprise to see youth rise to the occasion again in Ottawa.

“It’s really impressive.”

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