Wet’suwet’s publishes draft agreement with British Columbia federal governments amid Aboriginal blockades

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SMITHERS, BC – Draft Agreement Between Hereditary Chiefs Opposing Pipeline In Northern British Columbia And Federal And Provincial Governments Recognizes Wet’suwet’en Rights And Title Under System of First Nation governance.

The memorandum of understanding concluded more than two months ago was published today by the Wet’suwet’en on its website.

The document does not deal with Wet’suwet’en’s opposition to the gas pipeline that is built on their territory by Coastal Gaslink.

A frequently asked questions document on the website indicates that the agreement has no impact on the pipeline.

“In fact, the other two governments know they will have to deal with the impact of (the pipeline) on Wet’suwet’en territory,” said the document.

He said the government is “aware of the serious consequences” of the pipeline in the south of Wet’suwet’en territory.

“Nothing in this agreement prevents legal proceedings and protests related to (Coastal Gaslink) from continuing. “

A spokesperson for the hereditary chiefs could not be reached for comment.

The pipeline first sparked numerous national protests in January 2019 when the RCMP applied a company-obtained injunction to dismantle obstacles on a remote forest road in northern British Columbia.

Larger demonstrations took place across the country last February after the RCMP imposed a second injunction.

The document says that Canada and British Columbia. recognized Wet’suwet’en’s title to the territory and their right to govern that territory.

This recognition means that governments will “never” be able to approve a project again without the First Nation participating in the decision.

Hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en who oppose the Costal Gaslink pipeline participate in a rally in Smithers, British Columbia, January 10, 2020.


Jason Franson / The Canadian Press / File

Five of Wet’suwet’s elected councils have signed agreements with Coastal Gaslink on the 670-kilometer pipeline across northern British Columbia. at Kitimat.

The Wet’suwet’s are governed by both a traditional system of hereditary chiefs and elected band councils.

Coastal GasLink has received government approval to build the pipeline, but hereditary Wet’suwet chiefs say the company has no power to build the pipeline on their territory without their consent.

The pipeline dispute also involved other unresolved issues of land rights and title, including who has the right to negotiate with governments and corporations, the fact that land is not covered by a treaty and remain unsold, and a 1997 court case that recognized the hereditary chiefs’ the authority and exclusive right of the Wet’suwet’en peoples over the land but did not specify the boundaries.

The proposed memorandum sets deadlines for negotiations over jurisdiction over land use planning, resources, water, wildlife, fish and the well-being of children and families, among others.

Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief, Chief Woos, center, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, and British Columbia. Aboriginal Relations Minister Scott Fraser arrives to speak to reporters in Smithers, British Columbia, March 1, 2020.


Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press / Girl

Nathan Cullen, a former New Democrat MP who has served as a liaison between governments and leaders, said the deal is expected to be signed on Thursday.

“I guess they will do it virtually,” he said, noting the pandemic restrictions.

Wet’suwet’s hereditary chiefs invited British Columbia’s Aboriginal Relations Minister Scott Fraser and Carolyn Bennett, Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, to sign the memorandum.

Once the document is signed, the three parties will be on the clock, said Cullen.

“There will be a solid process of community engagement and I know that the Wet’suwet’s are engaged in some internal dialogues that they have within the country,” he said.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot to discuss. “

The agreement, dated March 1, was concluded amid blockages to key transportation routes that shut down parts of the national economy.

OPP officers during a rail blockade in the Mohawk Territory of Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ontario, February 24, 2020.


Alex Filipe / Postmedia

The elected leaders of the Wet’suwet’ nations have said they do not support the memorandum because it was negotiated behind closed doors.

Gary Naziel, a hereditary deputy head of Wet’suwet’en, said he believed the signing process should be suspended until the end of the pandemic.

“It is not our way of doing business behind people’s backs,” he said.

His vision was the reunification of the nation but not the way it is done, said Naziel.

“If the (memorandum of understanding) goes ahead, you will see more separation within the nation and they are already separating clans and clan members, and houses,” he said.

“We cannot just give titles and rights to people who make their own laws and ignore the Wet’suwet’en law, ignore the hereditary leaders at the base. “

Naziel said the people should be allowed to discuss the proposed deal in a party hall.

“We have been sitting here for 30 years already, waiting and talking. We can wait another year or two. It won’t do anything wrong. ”

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