The elected chief and councillors of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation are asking to be included in discussions about the closed-door talks with the federal and provincial governments that resulted in a proposed settlement with hereditary chiefs and their land claims in northwest B.C.
Wet’suwet’en Chief Maureen Luggi and councillors Heather Nooski and Karen Ogen wrote to the Office of the Wet’suwet’en this week to remind hereditary chiefs of a 2016 agreement to include the Wet’suwet’en First Nation (WFN) and other elected councils in the territory. The Witset, Skin Tyee, Nee Tahi Buhn, Ts’il Kaz Koh (Burns Lake Band) and Hagwilget First Nation councils have supported the Coastal GasLink pipeline that a group of hereditary chiefs oppose.
“We regret that to date, WFN has not had any meaningful engagement or collaboration with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en,” the elected councillors’ March 2 letter states. “This has resulted in our people being divided on a number of issues. To ensure clan members and band members are adequately informed, we need to develop a plan to work together on natural resources, cultural, education, social services and shared jurisdiction issues.”
B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser and federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett have said their proposal to the hereditary chiefs won’t be disclosed until it is approved by the hereditary chiefs and their clans. Fraser and Premier John Horgan say the talks are about settling the long-standing Wet’suwet’en territorial claim, not the pipeline, which is fully permitted with work camps and right-of-way clearing underway.
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) March 2, 2020
Ogen is also CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, a group of area Indigenous communities supporting the gas pipeline and LNG project. After the proposed agreement with hereditary chiefs was reached last weekend, the alliance released a statement calling on Mohawk and environmental protesters to give them time to work out their differences.
“I think the NGOs, the protesters and the Mohawks can stand down,” Ogen said in the statement. “The Wet’suwet’en people got this.”
She noted that all 20 first nations along the Coastal GasLink route have approved the project and reached benefit agreements with the companies building what is estimated as a $40 billion investment.
Coastal GasLink will connect shale gas resources in northeast B.C. and northwest Alberta to a LNG Canada’s liquefied natural gas export facility at Kitimat. It has been hailed by Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the largest private investment in Canadian history, and a way to displace more carbon-intensive fuels in Asia.