BC government agrees to meeting with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs

Feb 13 2020, 12:33 pm

As demonstrations continue in Vancouver and roadblocks continue in northern BC, the provincial government has now confirmed its willingness to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in the hopes of finding agreement and resolution.

In a letter addressed to Simogyet Spookw/Chief Norman Stephens, BC Premier John Horgan writes that “on the basis you propose,” he agrees with the idea of a joint meeting between himself or “a senior member of my Cabinet” and Gitxsan Simgyget and Wet’suwet’en Dini Ze and Ts’ake ze “to engage in dialogue on how the current impasse over pipeline development arose, to discuss the current situation and to seek a process that avoids such situations in the future.”

He writes, “My office has informed the federal government of our response and we have urged the federal government to respond as quickly as possible to the proposal.”

He adds that it is his understanding that upon their receipt of the letter “and a similar commitment from Canada,” the blockade of the CN line will be removed “to allow for a period of calm and peaceful dialogue.”

Demonstrations in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their allies resisting a Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline have continued all week after RCMP arrested several land defenders in northern BC while enforcing an injunction on behalf of the gas company.

In Northern BC, the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline under construction is slated to cross Wet’suwet’en territory to bring liquified natural gas to port in Kitimat, BC.

All 20 elected Indigenous band councils along the route have signed on, but the hereditary chiefs of several Wet’suwet’en clans don’t want the project crossing their unceded territory.

Elected chiefs and band councils are a system of governance put in place by the Indian Act, whereas Wet’suwet’en people traditionally followed a clan system with hereditary chiefs as leaders.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the BC Union of Indian Chiefs, previously told Daily Hive he sees elected councils as having jurisdiction over reserve lands, and hereditary chiefs as having jurisdiction over a nation’s broader traditional territory.