Province, feds, Wet’suwet’en announce progress in MOU talks

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Local governments, industry, business and recreation groups will be receiving an invitation to assist in forming a regional engagement group as B.C. and Canada seeks to successfully implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title.

The provincial and federal government affirmed their commitment to work together under the memorandum of understanding signed earlier this year with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.

Although B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Scott Fraser and federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett said the coronavirus pandemic has created additional challenges, they are having important conversations which will continue to move them forward.

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“We are engaged in important dialogue on matters of Wet’suwet’en rights and title that have remained unresolved since the Delgamuukw-Gisday-wa decision more than 20 years ago,” Fraser and Bennett said in a joint statement Aug. 13.

“This is complex and important work and it will take time.”

A jointly developed external community engagement process has been launched, with invitations sent to potential participants to join a regional engagement group, and to suggest participants for a core advisory council.

“As our work progresses, we will also be consulting neighbouring Nations,” said Fraser and Bennett.

Both hope to reach a negotiators’ understanding by mid-October 2020 on an affirmation agreement for Wet’suwet’en rights and title that will also set the stage for further implementation negotiations.

“The draft agreement will then require approval and ratification by Wet’suwet’en clan members and the provincial and federal governments, which we will seek to conclude before the end of the year,” the ministers stated.

“During this time, internal engagement within Wet’suwet’en will continue, as will external community engagement with other interested parties on the negotiations and draft agreement.”

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Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Hagwilnegh (Ron Mitchell) was not available for immediate comment.

The Wet’suwet’en will be creating a seat of government for the entire Yintah (land) through the $1.2 million purchase funded by the Province of Lake Kathlyn Elementary School in Smithers. With the property transfer completed last month, the Wet’suwet’en will be working with School District 54 and Bulkley Valley Bright Beginnings Childcare to ensure a smooth transition next year.

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