More than 100 people came out to show their solidarity at a rally on Sunday calling for respect for Indigenous sovereignty.
The demonstration, led by Indigenous people, was held in support of B.C. Wet’suwet’en land defenders in front of the Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street.
The event was organized after 29 people were arrested on Friday and Saturday while protesting the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline drilling under the Wedzin Kwa river in northern British Columbia. Among those arrested include land defenders, opponents of the pipeline and two journalists.
Swooping Down Woman said she was standing in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en because women in her family were arrested while protesting the Alton Gas project on the Shubenacadie River in Nova Scotia.
Nsutuwite’taqan, also known as Sophia Sidarous, is an Indigenous activist from Metepenagiag First Nation in New Brunswick. Sidarous was one of the event’s leaders.
Last year, she was involved in a lawsuit against the federal government, accusing it of inaction on climate change. The lawsuit was dismissed in Federal Court in October 2020.
There was a strong police presence during the event. Two officers stood next to the demonstrators that had blocked off part of Gottingen Street.
One officer filmed the entire event from a short, elevated distance from the steps of police headquarters, overlooking the demonstration.
One demonstrator said police had been asked multiple times over many events not to film during the ceremonial Honour Song, but the officer filmed during Sunday’s event anyway.
Officers gathered around Swooping Down Woman as she said, “We’re standing here because you’re destroying territorial Indigenous lands. That’s why we’re standing here, so make sure that’s on your camera.”
Demonstrators moved from the steps of police headquarters across the street where Swooping Down Woman confronted the officer about filming the event. They chanted, “block the trains, block the roads, racist cops have got to go.”
Sidarous asked for silence and gave testimony in front of the officers. She spoke of the hurt that her community has experienced since contact with European settlers. Sidarous mentioned the shooting deaths of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi. Levi was from the same First Nation as Sidarous.
Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman, was shot and killed in Edmundston, N.B., by a police officer during a so-called wellness check on June 4, 2020. New Brunswick’s police commission said there was no wrongdoing in Moore’s death.
Just over a week later, on June 12, Rodney Levi, a Mi’kmaw man from Metepenagiag First Nation, was shot and killed by another police officer in northern New Brunswick. The province’s Public Prosecutions Service said no charges were warranted as it was deemed the officer involved was acting lawfully.