Government offices centre of protesters in Victoria, but demonstrations peaceful

VICTORIA — Police say pipeline protests outside government offices in Victoria on Friday were peaceful with much of the noise generated by passing motorists honking their car horns in support.

Groups of protesters, ranging in numbers from about 20 to 100 people, stood outside numerous government office buildings, chanting slogans and waving placards supporting Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in their territories.

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The scene was much different from Tuesday outside the British Columbia legislature when hundreds blocked entrances to the building, yelling "Shame" and "Shut Down Canada."

Premier John Horgan was critical of the protests at the legislature, which led to a police investigation of four alleged assaults, as he accused demonstrators of disrupting people going to work and drowning out the views of others.

Victoria police said Friday's protests ended in the early afternoon.

Gloria Filax said she came to Victoria from Gabriola Island to support the Wet'suwet'en chiefs.

"I just think there's a critical mass of things happening and issues coming together," she said outside the Ministry of Environment building. "It's about reconciliation and the disappointment in what our provincial and federal governments are not doing."

Filax said the protests are necessary to show governments and business leaders the Wet'suwet'en do not support the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is part of a $40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export terminal project slated for Kitimat, B.C.

"I don't really care if the trains are blocked," she said. "I'm sorry it's inconveniencing people, but you know what, that seems to be the only way we can get attention from our government."

Indigenous youth supporter Michael McKenzie said the protests at government offices and across Canada are about backing the Wet'suwet'en chiefs.

"I think there's a lot of awareness getting out there," said McKenzie, who was outside Victoria's courthouse. "I think there's obviously a lot of different opinions but it's important in this time and place to stand in solidarity."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2020.

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