Wet’suwet’en clans in British Columbia have ratified a memorandum of understanding that will see them take back management of their traditional territories, although one clan says the deal doesn’t go far enough in response to the controversial Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline now being built across their lands.
The communities’ deliberation over the draft agreement between the Wet’suwet’en, Canada, and British Columbia took two months, and the result “could change the future of Indigenous rights and title negotiations in B.C.,” The Narwhal reports. It has yet to be ratified by Ottawa or B.C.
“The Wet’suwet’en People have reached consensus and have agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding between the federal government and province of B.C. to resume the full management of our yintahs [traditional territory] using our governance system,” Hereditary Chief Smogelgem tweeted late last month. The Narwhal said details of the memorandum haven’t been released, but a joint statement released at the end of tripartite negotiations March 1 said the agreement would “implement [Wet’suwet’en] title on an expedited basis” if it was ratified. It added that “all parties at the table recognize that the differences relating to [Coastal GasLink] remain.”
Last week, the Gidimt’en clan said the negotiations hadn’t gone far enough to resolve the conflict over the pipeline. “Although this is a step in the right direction, [the project] continues to trespass on Wet’suwet’en territory in direct violation of the eviction order enforced by the Hereditary Chiefs,” the clan said in a statement. The success of failure of the agreement will be known “within the next few months,” the Gidimt’en added, and “until then, we continue to oppose this project and demand that [Coastal GasLink] and RCMP get out and stay out of Wet’suwet’en yintah.”
The Narwhal recalls that “Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs finalized the draft agreement on February 29 with Scott Fraser, B.C. minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, and Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, who said they’d return to ratify the memorandum if all the clans agreed to it.” Now, “it is unclear if Wet’suwet’en Peoples still need to vote on the memorandum before it is ratified with the province and federal government.” But “Coastal GasLink construction remains ongoing amid the pandemic, despite growing concerns that its work camps could facilitate the spread of the virus within remote communities.”