University students and others claiming to support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs stage a protest camp against the Coastal Gaslink pipeline at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 20, 2020. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Elected Wet’suwet’en chief blasts closed-door land title deal

Hereditary chiefs have been ‘wined and dined’ for 23 years

The land title agreement signed by federal and provincial officials in a “virtual” ceremony in Smithers May 14 is invalid and should be done in court, an elected chief of the Wet’suwet’en community at New Hazelton says.

Cynthia Joseph, Chief Councillor of the Hagwilget First Nation, says the memorandum of understanding between Ottawa, the province and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs was only shared with her community members May 9 in a Zoom video conference. The community consultation has not been done and the agreement should not go ahead, she said.

Joseph said the terms of the memorandum, obtained by Black Press and published May 7, should be filed in B.C. Supreme Court, not in a virtual ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That ceremony took place May 14, with federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser representing the Crown.

The agreement was hastily reached by federal and provincial officials as railway and roadblocks spread from northwest B.C. across the country, and the B.C. legislature was besieged by self-proclaimed supporters of the Wet’suwet’en in early February.

“The disconnect between the hereditary chiefs and the Wet’suwet’en people, in my view, arises as a direct result of the comfortable mess that the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have in negotiating treaty deals behind closed doors for 23 years, with no accountability, and being wined and dined by the federal government, provincial government and all of the industries,” Joseph said in a phone interview from New Hazelton May 13.

“The lack of integrity that we see in operation now is the result of signing bonuses of some hereditary chiefs having the misconception that they have the authority to make a unilateral decision on behalf of the clan membership who they have not consulted.”

EXCLUSIVE: A first look at the Wet’suwet’en land memorandum

RELATED: Elected chiefs call for withdrawal of ‘premature’ deal

Joseph said she has sent a letter to Bennett and Fraser calling for a similar agreement to be filed in court. Hagwilget supports the hereditary land system, and is the only Wet’suwet’en community that has not signed a benefits agreement for the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, which they alone among Wet’suwet’en elected councils oppose.

“Hagwilget first saw a copy of the MOU at approximately 11:10 Friday, May 9, when all the elected band councils and the office of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs had a meeting via Zoom,” Joseph said. “We advised all of the participants that our attendance on the call could not be construed as a consultation process.”

Wet’suwet’en hereditary rights and title were first established in 1997, in a Supreme Court of Canada ruling known as Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa.

“It is my understanding that the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa case is currently in general abeyance, pending these unfruitful and waste-of-time treaty negotiations that they have been involved in for the past 22 years on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en,” Joseph said. “So bringing back the Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa, the federal government and B.C. then file a declaration affirming the Wet’suwet’en aboriginal rights and title to its traditional territory. It’s a simple legal procedure, and this step is seen as a last step in the current MOU as drafted.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirusIndigenous

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

Just Posted

Pedestrian struck in late-night collision on Highway 1 in Hope

RCMP were on scene at the incident near Flood Hope Road where traffic was rerouted for eight hours

Nahatlatch, Silver Lake and other parks to open Monday, Othello Tunnels stay closed

More options for day-use and camping, starting June 1, in Hope, Fraser Canyon and Manning

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak declared over

Dr. Bonnie Henry hails work done to halt outbreak, which saw more than 130 people contract COVID-19

Hope activates emergency operations centre as Fraser River rises

Fraser River reaches 8,500 cubic metres per second at Hope gauge

Chilliwack teachers and EAs concerned with health and safety plans

As schools get ready to open, many worry measures won’t be enough to protect students from COVID-19

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Suspected ‘murder hornet’ leaves Langley man on edge after finding insect in bedroom

The extra-large invasive insect had been first discovered in Brookswood on Thursday, May 28

Most Read