B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett speak briefly to the press following Thursday’s discussions with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Quinn Bender photo)

B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett speak briefly to the press following Thursday’s discussions with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Quinn Bender photo)

EXCLUSIVE: A first look at the Wet’suwet’en land title agreement with B.C., Ottawa

Exclusive and/or shared jurisdiction will be handed over to First Nation houses over time

Black Press Media has obtained a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Canada, B.C. and the Wet’suwet’en regarding Indigenous rights and title.

The agreement was reached Feb. 29 following several days of discussions in Smithers.

The MOU commits the parties to negotiations through an agreed-upon unnamed mediator. It asserts exclusive, in some cases and in other cases shared jurisdiction over lands will be transferred to the Wet’suwet’en over time.

Canada and B.C. will pay for the process.

Last week, in a joint statement, the three parties committed to signing the MOU on May 14, which prompted opposition from the elected councils of the five Wet’suwet’en reserves and four hereditary chiefs from the Skin Tyee First Nation (Francois Lake). The elected chiefs called for the joint statement to be withdrawn.

“This MOU consultation process has lacked any semblance of credibility,” a statement from the elected chiefs states.

“The federal government, the provincial government and the hereditary chiefs have completely ignored many clan members and elected chiefs. These discussions have not included openness and respect for all parties.”

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs call for withdrawal of ‘premature’ agreement on rights and title

The nine other hereditary chiefs responded with an invitation for further discussions.

“We would like to continue building on the good work that took place in February 2020 with the community-based dialogue sessions that occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic and public health crisis,” the letter states, referencing clan meetings across the territory, sessions in Prince George and Vancouver and more recent virtual meetings.

In an emailed statement to The Interior News, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser said he could not speak to the issue, but would be following up.

“Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs committed to bringing the proposal to all Wet’suwet’en clan members for discussion and endorsement, including elected leaders,” he said. “They would be best placed to speak to the Wet’suwet’en ratification process. I am aware of concerns raised by the elected Wet’suwet’en Chiefs and I will be reaching out to them to discuss this further.”

Below is the complete text of the MOU:

Immediate

a) Canada and BC recognize that Wet’suwet’en rights and title are held by Wet’suwet’en houses under their system of governance.

b) Canada and BC recognize Wet’suwet’en aboriginal rights and throughout the Yintah

C) Canada and BC recognize Wet’suwet’en commit to the negotiations described below (commencing immediately)

d) BC commits to engage in those negotiations consistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act

e) Canada and BC will provide the necessary resources to Wet’suwet’en for these negotiations

f) The parties agree these negotiations are to be intensively mediated by an agreed upon mediator.

Agreement to be Negotiated Over the Next three months

a) Legal recognition that the Wet’suwet’en Houses are the indigenous governing body holding the Wet’suwet’en aboriginal rights and title in accordance with our Innc Nuaden

b) Legal recognition of Wet’suwet’en title as a legal interest in land by Canada and BC

i) There will be no impact on existing rights and interests pertaining to land until jurisdiction is transferred to the Wet’suwet’en

ii) Jurisdiction that flows from Wet’suwet’en aboriginal rights and title will be transferred to Wet’suwet’en over time based on an agreed upon timetable (with the objective for transition within of some areas within 6 months and a schedule for the remaining areas of jurisdiction thereafter)

iii) In some cases the jurisdiction that is transferred to the Wet’suwet’en will be exclusive and in some cases it will be shared with Canada or BC

c) the area of jurisdiction that will need to be addressed include the following (without limitation)

i) Child and family wellness (5month timeline)

ii) Water (6month timeline)

iii) Wet’suwet’en Nation Reunification Strategy (6month timeline)

iv) Fish

v) Land use Planning

vi) Lands and Resources

vii) Revenue Sharing, Fair and Just Compensation and Economic Component of Aboriginal Title

viii) Informed decision making

ix) Such other areas as the Wet’suwet’en propose

d) Title will be implemented and jurisdiction (exclusive or shared) will be transferred once specifics on how aboriginal and crown titles interface have been addressed – this includes the following

I. transparency, accountability, and administrative fairness mechanisms including clear process and remedies to address grievances of any person, pertaining to all areas of shared and exclusive jurisdiction

II. clarity on the Wet’suwet’en governance structures, systems, and laws that will be ratified by the Wet’suwet’en and will be used to implement their title to the extended required to understand the interface between the Crown and the Wet’suwet’en jurisdiction.

e) This agreement is to ratified by Canada, BC and the Wet’suwet’en under their respective systems of governance.



editor@interior-news.com

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