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‘Wiggus’ table puts respect at centre of de-escalation talks over pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory

Last Updated Jan 31, 2020 at 11:41 am PDT

FILE - Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs from left, Rob Alfred, John Ridsdale, centre and Antoinette Austin, who oppose the Costal GasLink pipeline take part in a rally in Smithers B.C., on Friday January 10, 2020. The Wet'suwet'en hereditary clan chiefs and their supporters want a public investigation into the way the RCMP are controlling access along a rural road in northern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Summary

Wet’suwet’en chiefs have agreed to seven days of mediated talks with the province

Minister Scott Fraser to lead province's team, MP Nathan Cullen to act as liaison with Wet’suwet’en

It’s unclear if John Horgan will be at the ‘Wiggus’ table to meet hereditary chiefs

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – After weeks of disruptive protests and grassroots demonstrations across the country, Wet’suwet’en chiefs have agreed to seven days of mediated talks with the province.

“The discussion table will be known as ‘Wiggus’, the Wet’suwet’en word for respect. In the landmark Supreme Court Decision of Delgamuukw Gisday’wa Wiggus it was defined as ‘respect for all living-beings, starting with oneself,'” says a brief statement from the group.

But one sure sign of respect the chiefs have been clear about would be for Premier John Horgan to meet with them face-to-face, however, it’s unclear if Horgan will be at the “Wiggus” table.

Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser will lead the province’s team and popular ex-NDP MP Nathan Cullen will serve as a liaison.

“I’m honoured that the Denezeh & Tsakozeh have given their blessing to this role that the Premier has asked me to take on,” the former politician tweeted.

Cullen is well-liked in the large federal Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding he represented for more than 15 years. He is known for fighting for fisheries and forestry, while still maintaining strong relationships with the diverse and numerous Indigenous communities in the north and central interior.

The talks follow protests over Coastal GasLink’s plans for a natural gas pipeline which would run from northeastern B.C. to an export terminal in Kitimat. The company has signed agreements with 20 elected First Nations along the pipeline’s 670-kilometre route, but the hereditary chiefs say it can’t go forward without their consent.

There are reports the RCMP will keep operating checkpoints along the road leading to the main Wet’suwet’en occupation camp on their traditional territory, but won’t enforce an interlocutory injunction granted to Coastal GasLink to begin construction.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and a number of legal groups are calling for a formal investigation into police actions at the checkpoints, saying police are arbitrarily excluding media, lawyers, and residents from the entire area.

Harsha Walia, executive director with the BCCLA, listed a number of charter sections she believes have been violated, including those covering freedom of association and freedom of the press, as well as section 35, which protects Indigenous rights.

Read the full statement from Wet’suwet’en chiefs:

January_30,_2020_Statement_by_the_Wetsuweten_BC