VICTORIA — B.C. Premier John Horgan questions what is being achieved by ongoing protests at the legislature, but he won’t ask dozens of people camped at the building’s ceremonial gates to leave.

Horgan made the comments following a rally Wednesday by University of Victoria students who walked out of classes to attend the gathering in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs.

About 250 students were at the legislature to support the campers who say they will stay until pipeline company Coastal GasLink leaves traditional Wet’suwet’en territories in northwest B.C. 

Horgan said his NDP government is addressing environmental and Indigenous rights and title issues.

“Dissent is an essential part of our democratic processes,” he told a news conference. “However, I think at some point it becomes counterproductive. The pipeline is permitted. It is being built. It’s being built by Indigenous Peoples to a great degree and the benefits are well known and well established.”

Coastal GasLink is building a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, where a liquefied natural gas export terminal is slated to be built.

Horgan said the Wet’suwet’en people are considering rights and title issues and the pipeline following negotiations last weekend in Smithers between B.C. and federal government officials and the hereditary chiefs.

“We are working on the range of issues that are important to the people camping here,” he said. “Perhaps, if they spent some time to look at the work that’s being done they might decide to go and do other things.”

Horgan said the government has the most progressive environmental agenda in North America and it recently adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

Wet’suwet’en supporter Kolin Sutherland-Wilson told the rally that protests at the legislature and across Canada are forcing governments to act on long-standing Indigenous issues.

“This is the time to take a stand,” he said. “Now is the time to act. “That is the reason we cannot compromise. This is the reason why we are here on this cold concrete.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2020.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press