Students should be on board with Wet’suwet’en solidarity protests

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Protests are meant to make a difference, not in spite of but because of the disruption they cause to the rest of the world. In the case of the protests blocking trains in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation this week, it’s this disruption that makes them so effective.
 
The Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in Northern British Columbia is set to cut through Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs’ territory—against their consent.
 
The RCMP arrested at least six protesters on Wet'suwet'en land last Thursday, enforcing a court injunction meant to end disruption to Coastal GasLink’s pipeline construction. Since these arrests, protests supporting the Wet'suwet'en Nation have sprung up across Canada, including some that have halted VIA Rail trains between Toronto, Ottawa, and Montréal.
 
The protests have been peaceful and, by all measures, effective. By disrupting the daily lives of commuters, the protesters are calling attention to a hot-button Canadian issue that’s gone overlooked by most Ontario and Québec residents for too long. 
 
The majority of commuters affected by these protests are privileged enough to be able to turn a blind eye to the environmental and social impact the pipeline will have on the Wet'suwet'en Nation out west. The protests are capturing the attention of Canadians in the east, and making this issue much harder to ignore.
 
Too often, Indigenous communities are underserved by the media, and by federal and provincial governments. 
 
The disappointing reality is that Canada has failed to adequately respond to non-disruptive protests to the B.C. pipeline. Unfortunately, disruptive, peaceful protest has become necessary to change the political incentives in Ottawa, and for the Canadian government to hear the Wet'suwet'en nation and respect the boundaries of their land.
 
It’s essential to remember that cancelled VIA Rail trains aren’t the main issue at hand—they’re casualties of a larger problem. 
 
By continuing a pattern of disrespect and mistreatment of First Nation peoples in Canada through its pursuit of a pipeline through unceded Wet'suwet'en territory, the federal government does a far greater disservice to the Wet'suwet'en Nation than temporary cancelled rail travel. Ontario and Québec commuters should keep this in mind. 
 
Those frustrated by the disrupted rail travel should remember why these protests are happening. Instead of airing their displeasure toward the protesters, travellers should instead direct their anger at the federal government for making these protests a necessity. 
 
For students in Kingston, these protests have the potential to affect Reading Week travel. If trains continue to be disrupted into next weekend, students must focus their frustrations on the true source of the inconvenience—the Canadian government’s failure to recognize the protesters’ voices.
 
Taking a bus or a rideshare is a small price to pay to amplify Indigenous voices on an important and divisive issue with permanent effects on their livelihood.
 
 

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