A list of major civil disobedience events in recent Canadian history

VANCOUVER — Protesters around the country have blocked rail lines and used other forms of civil disobedience to show support for the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and their fight against a natural gas pipeline.

Here is a look at some other disputes over the development of natural resources in recent Canadian history:

Temagami, Ont. — Long-running protests over logging northeast of Sudbury led to arrests of demonstrators. The protests included people locking themselves to road construction machinery in an attempt to stop the extension of the Red Squirrel logging road. Environmentalists argued the area was home to a rare stand of old-growth pines. Among those arrested at one protest in 1989 was Bob Rae, who was leader of the Opposition NDP in Ontario at the time and was demonstrating his support for environmentalists and members of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai First Nation.


Oka, Que. — An armed standoff in Oka between Mohawks and the Canadian army ended on Sept. 26, 1990, after 11 weeks. The conflict partly stemmed from the town of Oka’s plan to expand a golf course on land the Mohawks claimed. After a failed July 11 police raid in which an officer was killed, Mohawks at the Kahnawake reserve south of Montreal blocked the Mercier Bridge that connects Montreal to its populous south-shore suburbs in a show of support. Trouble later erupted near the Kahnawake reserve shortly after the events at Oka, when a crowd of 400 to 500 bat-toting and rock-launching Mohawk protesters threatened soldiers. By the end, army officials had taken 34 men, 16 women and six young people into custody. In the aftermath of the standoff, Ottawa appointed a royal commission on Aboriginal issues.


Clayoquot Sound, B.C. — More than 700 people were arrested in 1993 during a peaceful three-month anti-logging protest on Vancouver Island. They objected to the B.C. government’s logging plan for the Clayoquot, which would have allowed some form of logging in two-thirds of the 350,000 hectares of forest, home to some of Canada’s largest and oldest trees. On July 15, police estimated nearly 2,000 people attended a rally in Tofino to hear the Australian rock group Midnight Oil perform in support of the protesters. The band’s visit was organized by Greenpeace Canada. In 1995, the B.C. government said clearcutting — when large tracts of forest are stripped of trees — would be replaced with a new form of harvesting that requires loggers to leave more trees standing.


Ipperwash, Ont. — One man was killed during a standoff over a land claim by Chippewa protesters outside Ipperwash Provincial Park on Lake Huron near London, Ont., in September 1995. Dudley George was killed in a confrontation with police at the park on Sept. 6. The land claim dated back more than 50 years and involved an abandoned military base. Nearly three weeks after the shooting, hundreds of people occupied the base and dozens more refused to leave the park, saying it was the site of a sacred burial ground. A police officer was later convicted of criminal negligence causing death. The standoff by members of the Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation ended on Sept. 13.


Gustafsen Lake, B.C. — An armed standoff between police and Indigenous people occupying a private ranch in Gustafsen Lake came to an end on Sept. 18, 1995, when a medicine man was allowed into the camp. Twenty people, two of whom were juveniles, were charged with a variety of offences, from mischief and trespassing to attempted murder and weapons offences. Those who occupied the ranch said it was on sacred ground and had never been ceded from Indigenous control.


Burnt Church, N.B. — In the early 2000s, First Nations in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia set lobster traps under their own management plans, which led to a series of violent clashes — most notably at Burnt Church, now known as the Esgenoopetitj First Nation. Most First Nations in the Maritimes and Quebec have since signed interim fishing agreements with Ottawa, but some Indigenous leaders have complained about the pace of talks. In 2017, non-Indigenous fishermen in western Nova Scotia started a series of peaceful protests at federal offices to draw attention to their claims that a small faction of Indigenous fishermen were selling their catches out of season and using their food and ceremonial fishery as cover.


Rexton, N.B. — Forty people were arrested after RCMP enforced an injunction on Oct. 17, 2013, to prevent people from blocking a compound near Rexton where SWN Resources was storing exploration equipment. Police said they seized guns and improvised explosive devices when they enforced the injunction to end the blockade of the compound. Six police vehicles were burned and police responded with pepper spray and fired beanbag-type bullets to defuse the situation. Among those who opposed shale gas development was the Elsipogtog First Nation. The RCMP blocked Route 134 on Sept. 29 after a protest there began spilling onto the road. Protesters subsequently cut down trees that were placed across another part of the road, blocking the entrance to the compound. The protesters wanted SWN Resources to stop seismic testing and leave the province. In 2014, the Liberal government in New Brunswick brought in an indefinite moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. It also instituted five conditions on allowing fracking, which included a plan for regulations and waste-water disposal, a process for consultation with First Nations, a royalty structure and a so-called social licence.

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