Mayor Shane Brienen has been named as the District of Houston’s representative on a wide-ranging regional group tied to negotiations between the provincial and federal governments and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs leading to finalizing rights and title to the latter’s traditional territory.
“Matters of rights and title have been left unresolved for many years, resulting in uncertainty and conflict,” indicated an invitation letter sent to the District and signed by provincial Indigenous relations and reconciliation minister Scott Fraser and 10 hereditary chiefs.
“Developing a common understanding of Wet’suwet’en rights and title is essential to creating an agreement that contributes to a vibrant economy and builds strong local relationships.”
The effort stems from an agreement signed by the two senior governments and hereditary chiefs earler this year to reach an initial memorandum of understanding. That was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic but the parties have now set mid-October as a date for completion.
That initial agreement came following Wet’suwet’en clan protests over Coastal GasLink’s natural gas pipeline in January and February, leading to arrests of Wet’suwet’en members and others for violating a Supreme Court injunction that provided Coastal GasLink contractors access to the pipeline route in the Morice River area south of Houston.
The agreement, however, does not include the pipeline and Wet’suwet’en clans and hereditary chiefs whose traditional territory takes in that area remain opposed to its construction.
The regional group, as envisioned, says stakeholder and community engagement “are key parts of any significant negotiation between government and Indigenous nations.
Between 30 and 50 people are to make up a larger regional group with a smaller 8-12 member core group to be named from the larger one.
Local governments, companies, service agencies and user groups are expected to make up the larger group.
The invitation letter says members of the core group should be committed to the end goal, willing to speak courageously about difficult issues, be curious and have strong credible voices.
The larger group is expected to meet quarterly with the core group meeting monthly.
But there’s also to be the opportunity for public sessions to act as a “platform for community dialogue and education about reconciliation, rights and title and the Wet’suwet’en Nation.”
While the memorandum of understanding is to be developed with the hereditary chiefs, elected chief councillors from Wet’suwet’en villages have complained, saying they should also be involved.