Hundreds of people gathered on Wednesday at the intersection of University Ave. and Union St. in a show of support for the Wet’suwet’en people.
The national walkout was hosted at Queen’s by a number of organizations on campus, including Queen’s Native Student Association (QNSA), Levana Gender Advocacy Centre, and African & Caribbean Students’ Association (ACSA).
Following the walk out, protesters gathered in front of the JDUC to listen to speakers. Stickers and flyers of chants were handed out to attendants.
In an interview with The Journal, Kassie Hill, co-president of QNSA, and Rachel Agnew, co-editor-in-chief of Queen’s Journal of Indigenous Studies, two of the speakers during the protest, said the purpose of the event was for people to acknowledge the sovereignty of Wet’suwet’en territory.
“We want to make sure that Queen’s and the broader community knows that our rights must be respected, and that people need to stand up and speak out for what’s happening right now,” Hill said. “They need to condemn what Canada has come to.”
“When the prime minister decided to address the nation and say that the onus of reconciliation is on Indigenous people now, it showed me that the reconciliation is dead,” Agnew said.
Agnew said reconciliation refers to a mutual agreement between both parties, and that Indigenous people have held up their side of the bargain. “We’re hoping that our settler allies can meet us halfway in order to truly achieve it.”
“We’re not violent people,” Hill said. “Canada has met us with violence, and that is what really showed us that reconciliation is not happening.”
“This crisis is intrinsically connected to resource extraction,” Agnew said. “We’re wearing this to prove that outside of the violence of occupation of Wet’suwet’en territory, resource extraction stands for decades worth of violence towards Indigenous women and Indigenous persons along the Highway of Tears.”
Four Directions Director Kandice Baptiste was also one of the speakers at the protest. In her speech, she acknowledged the challenges Queen’s has faced this year.
“It’s been challenging, but I think that one of the most amazing things that keeps me going is the resilience and the strength and the power our students continue to organize,” she said. “At the end of the day, what we’re protecting is our mother the Earth for the coming generations.”
During the protest, several attendees performed traditional Indigenous music. The event was later followed by a number of chants from the audience, including “When justice fails, block the rails” and “How do you spell racist? R-C-M-P.”
After listening to the speakers, protesters made their way to the University Club to listen to Kanien’kehá:ka human rights and environmental rights activist Ellen Gabriel on “the ongoing land struggle of Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawks) of Kanehsatà:ke.”
Organizers of the event have also created a fundraising page for Wet’suwet’en. The page encourages all Queen’s students, faculty, and staff to donate in support of the land defenders and has a fundraising goal of $3,200. At the time of publication, $1,820 dollars had been raised.
national walkout, Wet'suwet'en
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