Ta’Kaiya Blaney (front row, left to right), Tsartlip First Nation Chief and Union of BC Indian Chiefs vice-president Don Tom, Shay Lynn Sampson and Kolin Sutherland-Wilson spoke about the arrests of the young Indigenous land defenders on Jan. 21 while other supporters looked on. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

UPDATED: Indigenous protesters arrested during sit-in at Ministry office file police complaint

A dozen Wet’suwet’en supporters were arrested in Victoria

The 12 Indigenous protesters arrested for holding a sit-in in support of the Wet’suwet’en in Victoria last week have filed complaints against Victoria police.

The young land defenders blocked the entrance to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources on Blanshard Street for about 18 hours, starting at 11 a.m. on Jan. 21. The group was asking that the demands of the hereditary chiefs regarding stopping work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline be upheld, observed and respected.

On Wednesday, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said that several people in attendance were injured, despite Victoria police claims that no one was hurt.

READ MORE: Protesters block B.C. government building entrance to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Those arrested sent a formal complaint to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner and held a press conference at the student union building on the University of Victoria (UVic) campus on Wednesday morning.

Shay Lynn Sampson, a Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en UVic student who attended the sit-in, said the fallout has been “intense” and has taken a toll on her community. She noted the protest was peaceful and focused on prayer and solidarity with Wet’suwet’en.

“When police arrived, that’s when violence ensued,” Sampson said.

READ MORE: 12 Wet’suwet’en supporters arrested by VicPD

Tsartlip First Nation Chief and Union of BC Indian Chiefs vice-president Don Tom also spoke at the conference, noting that he was proud to stand with the young Indigenous protesters and rebuke the VicPD statements about what took place.

“If we look at the recent history of RCMP not allowing hereditary chiefs past the checkpoint and we have the VicPD here in Victoria giving misinformation regarding the arrests and the treatment of the youth who were peacefully defending Wet’suwet’en rights, it’s very concerning,” Tom said. “They have to be held accountable.”

Ta’Kaiya Blaney, an 18-year-old Tla’amin land defender, was the last to be arrested at the sit-in. At the Jan. 29 press conference, she emphasized that she feels police “went beyond their duty” and treated the Wet’suwet’en supporters at the Ministry office with “hatred and racism.”

“It was heartbreaking to hold ceremony, to sing, to pray with these Indigenous youth and see the way that they were treated by police that night,” Blaney said.

VIDEO: Wet’suwet’en activists say Victoria arrests a ‘perpetuation of violence’

Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, a Gitxsan UVic student arrested during the sit-in, pointed out that this defence of the land is an ongoing effort to protect the it from destruction for future generations.

A legal observer, Alexia Manchon, attended the sit-in and monitored interactions between the protesters and police. Manchon, an Indigenous Law student at UVic, said the protesters occupying the ministry office experienced violence despite explained to the some 30 armed officers on site that “they had no weapons on them and would not be using violence at any point.”

Manchon is also filing a complaint about the police action she witnessed on Jan. 21.

Deputy Police Complaint Commissioner Andrea Spindler confirmed that the OPCC has received “several” complaints regarding police conduct during the Jan. 21 sit-in. She could not confirm how many had already been filed but noted that each complaint will be reviewed and investigated by the independent civilian organization.

Black Press Media has reached out to VicPD for comment.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Coastal GasLink

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at Mission Institution; two other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, says correctional officer

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

COLUMN: The other graph that shows B.C. can beat COVID-19

Is the curve being flattened? data on hospitalizations provides a crucial answer.

Goose in Abbotsford rescued after legs wrapped up in fishing line

Wildlife centre operator says people need to be more careful

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

Insurance shock for B.C. condo owners

Claim-free two-year-old townhouse complex told premium will nearly triple

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Most Read