Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett in Smithers, B.C. on Feb. 28, 2020. (The Canadian Press)

Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs call on Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister to resign

Wet’suwet’en are governed by both a traditional hereditary chief system and elected band councils.

The elected leadership of several First Nations split over a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia are calling for the immediate resignation of Crown–Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.

In a statement released Monday, four elected Wet’suwet’en chiefs say the process by which the province, the federal government and the nation’s hereditary leaders arrived at a proposed memorandum of understanding on Wet’suwet’en rights and title is unacceptable.

In addition to calling for Bennett’s resignation, the elected chiefs are also asking the B.C. and federal governments to reject the current memorandum and begin the negotiation process again with full participation from elected leaders.

EXCLUSIVE: A first look at the land title memorandum between Wet’suwet’en, B.C. and Ottawa

“We feel it is important to reiterate that we agree with the pursuit of negotiations for Wet’suwet’en Rights and Title, but we take issue with the improper consultation with respect to an MOU which would lead to negotiations,” their statement says.

“This lack of proper consultation and secrecy means the governments are acting in bad faith contrary to the Honour of the Crown.”

The Wet’suwet’en are governed by both a traditional hereditary chief system and elected band councils.

Five elected Wet’suwet’en councils have signed agreements with Coastal Gaslink, which has government approval for construction of the pipeline that would carry natural gas through Wet’suwet’en territory to Kitimat on the B.C. coast.

But hereditary house chiefs say the company has no authority to build the pipeline through their territory without their consent, and their opposition sparked demonstrations and blockades that shut down large parts of the national economy in February.

Elected chiefs Rosemarie Skin of Skin Tyee Nation, Dan George of Ts’ilh Kaz Koh First Nation, Maureen Luggi of Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Patricia Prince of Nee Tahi Buhn Indian Band say elected council members were not permitted to see the draft memorandum until Thursday.

Details of the memorandum are sparse, but an agreement was reached on Feb. 29, and on April 29 the B.C. government said Wet’suwet’en clans had completed their review and given their support to sign it.

The memorandum has been framed as addressing land rights and title more broadly, rather than an agreement related to the pipeline.

The statement from the elected chiefs indicates the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, which is comprised of the nation’s hereditary leadership, has invited the federal and provincial governments to sign the memorandum this coming Thursday.

They say their nations met virtually with hereditary leaders as well as with Minister Bennett and her provincial counterpart in B.C., Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser, to voice their concerns last week.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

federal governmentIndigenousPipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Disaster recovery resources available for CRD residents impacted by flooding

Deadline is Aug. 5, 2020 to apply for disaster financial assistance

Williams Lake RCMP capture fugitive walking along Highway 97 in city limits

Witness said they could hear police yelling for suspect to ‘get down’

City of Quesnel sets dates for phased reopening of facilities

Playgrounds, washrooms and sports fields to open June 8, spray park June 15

COLUMN: Students head back to the classroom in Quesnel School Distict 28

District management and staff continue to serve the city and surrounding area well during COVID-19

Quesnel gold pan relocation prompts rally, response from mayor

“At its current location, it doesn’t let us tell our story”

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Premier John Horgan said he’s horrified by the death of George Floyd in the United States

Most Read