First Nations LNG Alliance members Chief Dan George of the Ts’il Kaz Koh, Karen Ogen of the Wet’suwet’en and Chief Clifford White of the Gitxaala Nation after meeting NDP MLAs in Victoria, May 10, 2018. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Wet’suwet’en elected council wants in on pipeline, B.C. land talks

Deal with Ottawa, Victoria leaves councils out, hereditary chiefs told

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.” (See letter in full below)

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.

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.

RELATED: First Nations LNG Alliance cheers NDP deal for LNG Canada

RELATED: Hereditary chiefs, ministers reach proposed deal in dispute

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.

Letter to Office of Wetsuweten From WFN – March 2020 by Tom Fletcher on Scribd


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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