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Expert 'cautiously optimistic' about proposed agreement between hereditary chiefs and ministers

Last Updated Mar 2, 2020 at 10:47 am PST

FILE - Wet'suwet'en hereditary leader Chief Woos, also known as Frank Alec, centre, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relation, Carolyn Bennett, left, and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser address the media in Smithers, B.C., Sunday, March 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

One expert is 'cautiously optimistic' about the proposed agreement between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and ministers

The agreement is currently under review by the Wet’suwet’en people

Details of the agreement are not public yet

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — While some are describing the proposed agreement between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and ministers, one expert is urging caution.

After weeks of blockades and protests, the agreement is now under review by the houses and people of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and could take some time before it is completed.

Jane Dickson, who teaches law and Indigenous justice at Carelton University, describes the agreement as “cautiously optimistic” and says the legal team for the Wet’suwet’en will be going through it will a fine-tooth comb.

RELATED: Review of proposed deal with Wet’suwet’en Nation could take weeks

“There are a lot of devils in the details and you want to be real careful about fine print when it comes to fine prints with the government, whether it’s treaties or any other kind of agreement,” she explains.

“They’re really, really careful to scrutinize that agreement to make sure that the way they’re viewing it, to make sure that Wet’suwet’en interests are respected.”

While the details of the deal aren’t public yet, both sides acknowledged that the agreement addresses land claims and title issues, but not the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute that sparked nationwide protests.

Dickson notes the agreement respects a Supreme Court decision from 1997, which recognized Wet’suwet’en rights and title. The Delgamuukw case was fought by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their Gitxsan neighbours, but the ruling fell short of recognizing the boundaries of the territory to which their title applies.

Veldon Coburn with the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Indigenous Studies says the proposed agreement and the government finally addressing that court decision will be precedent-setting.

“It’s no longer the case, I think, that the federal government and other Indigenous relations authorities throughout the county can ignore the Nation and just go through Indian Act band councils,” he says.

Coburn says he thinks could shift the way governments consult and deal with First Nations.

Coastal GasLink has the permits and can start work on the pipeline Monday.

With files from Ash Kelly