Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs expressed “profound disappointment” that B.C. premier Christy Clark did not make time to meet with them during her recent visit to Smithers.
The hereditary chiefs said they wanted to meet to advance reconciliation efforts between their respective governments.
The hereditary chiefs say they received notice of the premier’s visit on Nov. 18, and a that a meeting request was “quickly sent” to the premier’s office. They say they later received a call from the premier’s office advising that she “had no time to meet with them.”
“This calls into question the sincerity of premier Clark and her government’s commitment to work with the Wet’suwet’en with integrity and honour,” said Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief John Ridsdale. “Our [hereditary] chiefs have worked tirelessly this past year researching and drafting a framework agreement that reflects our Wet’suwet’en rights and title interests.”
“B.C. knows the strength of our rights and title interests, and we have made numerous requests to meet with premier Clark; sadly, those requests have gone unanswered,” he added.
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Jeff Brown said the fact that Clark didn’t meet with the hereditary chiefs was “deeply concerning.”
“It is our Wet’suwet’en law that when dignitaries from external governments come to our Yintah [land] that they are received by our chiefs and officially welcomed,” said Brown. “That is our protocol, and this is being ignored by premier Clark which is disrespectful to our chiefs, our members, and our ancestors.”
Stephen Smart, press secretary to premier Clark, said the reason Clark didn’t meet with the hereditary chiefs was simply a matter of “scheduling.”
“There was no availability on this occasion to meet with any elected officials – Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal – in Smithers,” he said. “The premier and government are fully committed to reconciliation with First Nations and are always willing to sit down and communicate with leadership.”
“Our commitment can be seen through the annual all-chiefs meeting, the work being done with Grand Chief Ed John on Aboriginal children in care, our support for the B.C. Assembly of First Nations economic development work, and the ongoing work of Minister [John] Rustad to help First Nations improve communities across British Columbia,” he added. “We always look forward to meeting with First Nation leadership and community members.”