MOU signed virtually by Wet'suwet'en, BC and federal governments

John Crawford, The Canadian Press
05/15/2020

A virtual signing ceremony was held Thursday, marking the start of a new relationship between Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs and the federal and BC governments.

The Hereditary chiefs say a new agreement with the federal and provincial governments will help relations moving forward.
   
Scott Fraser, BC's minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, says the ceremony was conducted over a Zoom call with people participating from different locations to respect health guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"One by one we signed as it was being recorded, and everyone can see it, we held up our respective copies so they could be easily seen, and essentially it was signed all on the Zoom call," he explained.
 

The MOU was criticized by elected chiefs, who complain they were left out of the negotiation process, but Fraser says future talks will include governance meetings with both hereditary and elected chiefs.

"That kind of reunification work and the determination of governance within the Wet'suwet'en is an essential part of the work moving forward successfully," he said.
 
An item not in the MOU is the dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
 
The agreement was negotiated in late February amid an atmosphere of countrywide blockades, marches and encampments in support of the hereditary chiefs who oppose the pipeline crossing their traditional territories.

The elected chiefs and band councils support the pipeline.
 
Earlier this week, Indigenous law expert Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said the signing ceremony should have been put on hold until more governance issues are negotiated.
 
The University of BC professor said there could be future conflicts between hereditary and elected chiefs over governance issues.
 
"I'm a bit dumbfounded that something that's so messy and problematic would be something that's celebrated in a signing ceremony; I understand it was produced in this cauldron of pressure with the Coastal GasLink protests, but what was touted as being this massive shift and fantastic agreement -- now that we all see it, it's like WHAT? -- it's just not as advertised!""

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