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Trudeau Urges Patience as Wetsuweten Ponder Land and Title Deal

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he knows people are impatient for a resolution to tensions involving a disputed natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia, but time is needed to respect the traditions of the Wetsuweten people.

Speaking to reporters in Halifax Tuesday, Trudeau acknowledged the opposition of some Wetsuweten leaders to the Coastal GasLink pipeline has led to difficult times for many Canadians over the past few weeks.

He said his government has been focused on trying to find a solution, but added that current tensions stem from Canadas dark history of mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

“We know that centuries of marginalization, of oppressive, broken government policies have created a situation that is untenable,” Trudeau said.

“It is not an easy process. It is a process we are all impatient with that needs to move forward, but we need to remain positive because the only path forward for our country is for all of us to work together and that is what were going to stay focused on doing.”

Wetsuweten hereditary chiefs and senior federal and B.C. cabinet ministers reached a proposed agreement over the weekend, but details are not being released until the Wetsuweten people are consulted through their traditional feast protocol, which could take up to two weeks.

Trudeau says his government is respecting this process, and will not discuss details of the agreement until the Wetsuweten “have an opportunity to share it and discuss it internally,” he said.

But the prime minister also sidestepped a question about how the deal will affect the pipeline project.

All parties have made it clear the agreement touches only land and title rights generally. The natural gas pipeline itself remains in dispute.

Five Wetsuweten elected chiefs from councils that support the pipeline released a statement saying they are pleased that progress was made in the talks with the provincial and federal governments but they said the agreement was reached without input from all the Wetsuweten communities.

The statement said they “envision” the elected chiefs and council of the various Wetsuweten communities will be included in a review of the deal.

“We need to be engaged in our feast hall, in our respective communities to ensure all of our clan members are heard and acknowledged,” it said.

The hereditary chiefs could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said Monday the pipeline project will go ahead.

“This project is underway. It has been approved and ratified. Its going to be completed,” Horgan told the B.C. legislature Monday.

He noted the tentative agreement with the Wetsuweten chiefs is “forward looking,” dealing with their role in future discussions of land rights.

“There was not, at any time, any objective to go in and convince people to have a different point of view. We had a frank discussion. There was disagreement. The project will proceed. Dissent is appropriate. Unlawful dissent is not,” Horgan said.

Trudeau noted the federal and provincial governments had been working previously with the Wetsuweten Nation on rights issues, including a deal signed with Ottawa in 2018 giving the Wetsuweten full jurisdiction over their own child and family services.

The new deal, if agreed to by the community, will build on this work, Trudeau said.

While not saying so overtly, Trudeaus remarks intimated that Ottawa hopes the deal can help lower the opposition to the pipeline project.

“Obviously we have come to what is hopefully a new level of solutions and collaboration with this most recent agreement,” Trudeau said.

“We understand that this is a challenging situation for everyone, but we must remain committed to reconciliation and to the respect and partnershipRead More – Source

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