OTTAWA — Federal cabinet ministers are facing pointed questions about why elected band chiefs and women of the Wet’suwet’en Nation who support a disputed natural gas pipeline in British Columbia were not part of meetings with federal and provincial cabinet ministers aimed at de-escalating tensions.
At a parliamentary committee today, Conservative MPs pressed Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller on how band council chiefs who had signed deals for a project they believed would benefit their communities felt shut out of the talks.
Two weeks ago, Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser met with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline — a stand that sparked solidarity protests and barricades that disrupted rail and road traffic across the country for three weeks last month.
Three days of meetings resulted in a proposed deal on land and title rights between the federal and provincial governments and hereditary chiefs.
But Theresa Tait-Day of the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition says the chiefs who took part in those meetings don’t speak for the whole nation, calling them “bullies” who took their hereditary titles from women in their community, including herself.
Tait-Day says the wishes of the community, including many who support the pipeline, have been hijacked by outside groups using the hereditary chiefs who are against the pipeline to block oil and gas projects in Canada.