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Wet’suwet’en pact with Ottawa and B.C. disputed by elected chiefs

SMITHERS, B.C. — Elected chiefs of a First Nation that’s split over a natural gas pipeline through their territories say they will not sign a deal on rights and title, a day after the hereditary chiefs backed the agreement.

The elected chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nations say they don’t support the proposed memorandum of understanding on rights and title with the federal and British Columbia governments.

The hereditary chiefs decision to sign the memorandum was announced Thursday in a joint statement they issued with Ottawa and the province.

The hereditary chiefs oppose construction of a pipeline through their northwestern B.C. territories, while a majority of elected band councils support the Coastal GasLink project.

Opposition to construction of 670-kilometre pipeline set off demonstrations and blockades that shut down large parts of the national economy in February.

Details of the memorandum haven’t been released but Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the federal and provincial governments agree it commits them to implementing the rights and title of the First Nation.

Elected chiefs say in a statement the memorandum consultation process “lacked any semblance of credibility,” and they are asking for withdrawal of the hereditary chief’s “premature” announcement.

Although details have not been made public, the memorandum has been framed as addressing broader land claims rather than an agreement over the pipeline. It was reached late in February after days of discussions in Smithers and work on the pipeline resumed after it was announced.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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