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)

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 by video conference 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

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Most Read