Happier times: B.C. Premier John Horgan is greeted by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief John Ridsdale at a community meeting in Witset, March 16, 2019. (Interior News)

B.C., federal ministers plead for meeting Wet’suwet’en dissidents

Scott Fraser, Carolyn Bennett standing by to return to Smithers

As Wet’su’weten hereditary chiefs headed for Ontario to meet with their Mohawk supporters in a nation-wide railway blockade to stop the Coastal GasLink pipeline, federal and B.C. Indigenous relations ministers renewed their plea for a meeting with them Wednesday.

In the latest effort by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser to get a meeting with the dissident hereditary chiefs, they wrote Wednesday to the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, where a minority of hereditary chiefs remain opposed to the pipeline that would supply natural gas to a new export facility at Kitimat.

The letter refers to “repeated public and personal commitments by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan and our own letters of Feb. 16, 2020,” offering “dedicated attention from both levels of government to work with you in charting a peaceful path forward. (See letter in full below.)

“In light of that, we both commit to be in Smithers as early as Thursday, Feb. 20 and will be able to meet with any of the hereditary chiefs to discuss these matters of great concern to the Wet’suwet’en Nation,” Fraser and Bennett wrote. “We understand that some of the hereditary chief may not be available, and we commit to coming back again when they are.”

RELATED: Wet’suwet’en chief says no meeting until RCMP leave

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As the letter was being sent, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Na’moks (John Ridsdale), repeated the demands of the dissidents that the conditions for the meeting were unchanged.

“Remove RCMP from our territory, remove [Coastal GasLink] from our territory, and we’ll have discussions,” The Canadian Press reported that Na’moks said Wednesday.

The demands refer to a mobile RCMP detachment in the remote region of northwestern B.C. where police arrested 28 people when they enforced a court injunction granted to Coastal GasLink this month.

The project has federal and provincial approval, and benefit agreements with all 20 elected Indigenous councils along the pipeline route from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat, including Witset and other Wet’suwet’en councils. The dissident group has gained support from across the country, with blockades at roads, ports and railways from Vancouver to Quebec.

20 02 19 Fraser Bennett Letter by Tom Fletcher on Scribd


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