Wet’suwet’en supporters set up blockade on Hwy. 75 in Manitoba

A group of demonstrators set up a partial blockade on Mantioba’s Hwy. 75 Monday in protest of a contentious pipeline project in northern British Columbia.

A handful of protesters set up along the highway Monday morning, blocking southbound traffic to one lane, just south of Morris, Man.

Vin Clarke, one of the organizers, said the group had planned to keep the effort up until Mounties stop enforcing a court injunction against the Wet’suwet’en Nation members blocking construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline near Houston, B.C., but the Manitoba blockade came down around 5:30 p.m.

“These invasions on our territories have to stop,” Clarke told Global News earlier in the day Monday.

The local demonstrators told Global News they planned to set up the barricade again, but weren’t clear on when that would happen.

The protest is part of a Canada-wide movement aiming to shut down the country’s economy in the wake of RCMP enforcement of the court injunction.

RCMP moved into the traditional, unceded territory on Feb. 6.

The $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink project is meant to carry natural gas from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat.

The company has signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected Indigenous councils along the route.

But hereditary chiefs who oppose the project say elected councils only have jurisdiction over First Nations reserves. The hereditary chiefs claim authority over rights and title to land that was never covered by treaty.

The group that set up the blockade in Manitoba Monday is the same that had blocked a major rail line west of Winnipeg last week.

That blockade came down a day later after CN obtained a court order injunction.

RCMP were also set up along with protesters on Hwy. 75 Monday, telling Global News they were there to monitor the protest.

In a tweet, police warned drivers to expect delays, use caution and avoid the area if possible.

Northbound lanes weren’t affected, and protesters were allowing southbound traffic through the blockade without much delay while Global News was at the scene Monday afternoon.

Clarke said demonstrators were handing out information on treaty rights to drivers before letting them through the blockade.

The action came as railway blockades and protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are held across Canada.

The chiefs and their supporters are calling on the B.C. government to withdraw permissions for the project to proceed.

Across the country, groups have rallied in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation, blocking rails, streets, bridges and ports. Via Rail has cancelled most of its service across Canada, and CN has shut down its rail network in Eastern Canada, halting freight traffic.

–With files from Malika Karim, Kerri Breen, and David Lao

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