Reconciliation talks between the province and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have begun.
At a April 23 meet-and-greet for NDP nomination candidate Taylor Bachrach in Smithers, Victoria MP and lawyer Murray Rankin confirmed the first of many planned talks were scheduled for April 25 and 26.
“Our plan … is to meet every two weeks for two days at a time,” said Rankin, adding he is excited to hear what the hereditary chiefs have to say.
“I want to talk about what they want to talk about.”
Earlier this week, hereditary chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale), addressed the United Nations in New York City on behalf of the Wet’suwet’en, echoing Rankin’s sentiment that it’s time to act.
“Indigenous systems of governance must be recognized and respected and not trampled upon in the interest of corporate development,” he said.
“We are a government, we decide who comes on our territory, we are the hereditary chiefs. British Columbia and Canada only have assumed and presumed authority on our lands.”
Na’moks also used the opportunity to invite Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to visit Wet’suwet’en territory.
Rankin said he is hopeful the provincial government will be able to provide a more detailed update on what materializes from the talks this summer.
The province selected Rankin to engage with the hereditary chiefs in part due to his strong understanding of the Supreme Court’s landmark Delgamuukw decision in 1997.
The reconciliation process officially began with a smoke feast held in Witset on March 16, which Premier John Horgan attended along with Rankin.
The hereditary chiefs are strongly opposed to Coastal GasLink’s (CGL) pipeline project through what they claim as their sovereign territory.
Fourteen protesters were arrested at the Gidimt’en checkpoint in January when the RCMP enforced a court injunction allowing CGL to access a road and bridge near Houston.
They have since had all charges dropped as the B.C. prosecution service said it did not have enough evidence to pursue charges.