It is very important the Wet’suwet’en Nation has an opportunity to internally discuss a proposed agreement on rights and title reached with the federal and B.C. governments, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
The proposed agreement, which is being kept confidential, is the result of weekend discussions in Smithers, B.C., with representatives of hereditary chiefs, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser.
Speaking in Halifax on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau said the federal government will respect the desire of the Wet’suwet’en to work on the agreement amongst themselves first.
“Because of that respect, we will wait for them to do their work before we talk about the details of what is in it,” Mr. Trudeau said.
The proposed deal does not, however, resolve concern around the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
The natural gas project has received support from elected chiefs but is opposed by hereditary chiefs who are concerned about the pipeline crossing traditional territory.
The opposition to the pipeline by the hereditary chiefs has also been the main source of blockades and protests that have played out across Canada in recent weeks.
B.C. Premier John Horgan said Monday, however, that permits are in place for the project, it has been approved and it is underway.
Mr. Horgan’s government has also faced questions from B.C. Liberal MLA Mike de Jong about who negotiated the agreement on rights and title and whether the leaders at the table represent Wet’suwet’en people.
In response, Mr. Fraser said the ratification process would give everyone a voice.
The B.C. government has worked closely with the nation on rights and title, Mr. Trudeau said Tuesday.
He also said the federal government has been working with the Wet’suwet’en Nation for a number of years, specifically on a previously signed agreement on child and family services.
“Obviously, we have come to what is hopefully a new level of solutions and collaboration with this most recent agreement,” he said.
Sarah Plank, the director of communications for the B.C. Ministry of Indigenous Relations, said late Monday that the proposed agreement with the Wet’suwet’en will be made public if it is endorsed by members of the nation.
The B.C. government hopes Wet’suwet’en members will endorse the agreement to resolve matters of rights and title that have been outstanding for 23 years since a Supreme Court decision known as Delgamuukw.
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