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Indigenous leaders meet to discuss implications of Canadian reconciliation efforts

Last Updated Jan 14, 2020 at 11:03 am MDT

Drummers play as Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief Namoks (John Ridsdale), back right, and Chief Madeek (Jeff Brown), back left, hereditary leader of the Gidimt'en clan, enter the room as Indigenous nations and supporters gather to show support for the Wet'suwet'en Nation before marching together in solidarity, in Smithers, B.C., on Wednesday January 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Indigenous business leaders and B.C. politicians are gathering in Vancouver on Tuesday to discuss the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

As the federal government rushes to write its own legislation based on that document, we’re finding out this week’s discussions could have major implications for the way resources are extracted and who benefits from such projects in Canada.

The B.C. provincial government passed legislation in November implementing the Declaration.

However, Premier John Horgan says the controversial Coastal GasLink project will go ahead despite adamant claims from hereditary leaders that free, prior, and informed consent — a basic tenet of UNDRIP — has not been met.

He and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau say hereditary chiefs have no legal standing when it comes to what happens on traditional territory and Coastal GasLink’s pipeline will go through as permitted and upheld by recent court injunctions.

Chief Na’moks of the Wet’suwet’en says all Coastal GasLink workers have been evicted from his territory. He has addressed the UN about resource extraction and traditional rights seven times.

“I would like to ask the special rapporteur to emphasize that it is crucial for states, in the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to do so meaningfully and as a whole, not selectively based on what is politically convenient,” he told a UN convention in 2019. “Free, prior, and informed consent is not an enhanced consultation process, and states cannot ignore the decisions made by Indigenous people through their own systems of governance and decision making that they have freely chosen for themselves.”

He added, “It is crucial that states recognize Indigenous people’s human right to peacefully express their dissent to corporate development in their lands and their territories. Violations of those rights have been persisting for centuries and must be halted.”

 

The UN’s committee on racism has called on the federal and provincial governments to cancel a number of projects, including Coastal GasLink’s LNG pipeline, which it says hasn’t received free, prior, and informed consent before proceeding.

Tensions have flared in northern B.C. between the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Mounties, and Coastal GasLink over the past year. In January of 2019, violence broke out as some members of the First Nation tried to block access to the site.

Later, it was revealed the RCMP requested permission to use snipers and lethal force in their raid of the protest camp.

Tuesday’s event is sponsored by pro-LNG and pro-business Indigenous groups hoping to capitalize on newly enshrined rights to self determination, after a century and a half of control and reliance on the federal government.