Rolling blockade on Hwy. 403 in Brantford. Photo courtesy of Brandon Doxtator.

Indigenous solidarity rolling blockade slows 401, 403

Ontario Indigenous groups, including some from the Oneida Nation of the Thames, made it clear on Friday through rolling blockades on 400 series highways that they stand in solidarity with those protesting a natural gas pipeline in British Columbia.

The rolling blockades slowed traffic to 50 km/h in the eastbound lanes of the major highways beginning on Highway 402 in Middlesex County around 7 a.m. They then progressed onto Highway 401 and Highway 403 before joining a peaceful protest outside of Brantford at Cockshutt Road and Brant County Road 18.

“We are standing in solidarity with the Unist’ot’en people in British Columbia,” said Lela George, who was in one of the vehicles that took part. “We thought it was an excellent time to come together with the arrest that happened over there on unceded territory because we can all relate to what they are going through. We have had enough of Canada disappointing our people.”

Enforcing a court injunction, RCMP arrested 14 people on Monday who were blocking access to the planned route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through the Wet’suwet’en territory in northern B.C. The injunction, which barred people from stopping the pipeline company from gaining access to the land, was granted in December.

Elected councils of the 20 First Nations along the pipeline route reportedly signed agreements with TC Energy for the development. However, First Nation members who are opposed to the pipeline are angry the company didn’t also get consent from unelected hereditary chiefs.

“We don’t want a negative relationship with the people. We want to walk beside the people, but unfortunately, it has been harder than we want it to be,” said George. “We should be able to make decisions together and think about our planet, our waters, our resources.”

Prior to the rolling blockades in southwestern Ontario, OPP issued a heads-up to other drivers about the slowdowns through social media.

“OPP is working with those who may organize protest events to provide a safe and peaceful opportunity to exercise their lawful rights while minimizing the impact on the travelling public,” OPP wrote on Twitter.

While the delays for motorists were short-lived, George said the group travelling from Oneida did encounter drivers who did not appreciate the slowdown.

“There was some road rage and some beeping from not very happy people, but we are always in survival mode and we are always in defence mode when it comes to trying to prove ourselves,” said George.

On Wednesday, Indigenous protesters marched through downtown London and stopped traffic at several intersections in a show of support with those in B.C. that lasted roughly 2 hours.

More solidarity slowdowns are being planned for later this month, George said.