UPDATE Feb. 18: Nelson’s Bank of Montreal branch re-opens after pipeline sit-in

Wet'suwet'en supporters left the bank over the weekend

  • Feb. 12, 2020 12:00 a.m.

The Bank of Montreal in Nelson opened Tuesday after being closed since Thursday because of an occupation by activists demanding the bank divest itself from financially supporting the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline.

The sit-in began on Wednesday and continued inside the bank 24 hours per day into the weekend.

On the first day, participants crowded the lobby, wrapped themselves around a post and denounced the $6.6-billion pipeline, which is being partially built on Wet’suwet’en territory in the face of opposition from hereditary chiefs.

“If it can happen on one territory it’s going to happen time and time again,” said demonstrator Anne Marie Child.

“This is the people uprising and we’re showing our support and solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the Wet’suwet’en people and Indigenous youth.”

On Thursday and Friday, a security guard stood inside the entrance, not letting anyone enter. If any of the small group of occupiers sitting in a circle on the floor in the bank lobby left to get food or use the bathroom, he said, they wouldn’t be let back in.

About 20 others gathered with signs on the sidewalk outside.

The demonstration also shut down the intersection of Kootenay and Baker Streets on Feb. 12, although that had cleared by the next day. Officers from the Nelson Police Department were on hand, but said they wouldn’t remove activists from the bank.

A report last month by the environmental activist organization Rainforest Action Network cited a $4.3-billion loan by BMO to TransCanada Pipelines as part of the pipeline project, which will carry natural gas 670 kilometres from Dawson Creek, B.C. to an LNG facility near Kitimat.

Scotiabank, CIBC, Toronto Dominion and Royal Bank of Canada were also said to be supporting the project in various ways.

BMO management declined to comment on the end of the occupation. Participants in the demonstration could also not be reached for comment.

“Although our officers were involved with this dispute from the beginning and assisted when needed,” said Nelson police chief Paul Burkart, “it was the representatives from both BMO and the protestor group that allowed this to come to a peaceful conclusion when it did without police intervention.”

Related:

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs take Canada’s environmental assessment system to court

VIDEO: John Horgan denounces B.C. legislature anti-pipeline siege

B.C. touts Indigenous reconciliation in protest-delayed throne speech

• Wet’suwet’en and B.C. government have been talking Aboriginal title for a year

• Trudeau tightlipped on plan to end protests ‘quickly and peacefully’

• Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

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