No sur­prise at all

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - Nor­man Dale Prince Ge­orge

The con­flict near the Unist’ot’en camp in Wet’suwet’en ter­ri­tory and the fact that the pro­po­nent and the gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tors (AKA cheer­lead­ers) have been mak­ing deals with the wrong peo­ple seems to have come as a rude shock to Premier John Hor­gan and a large num­ber of other non-indige­nous Bri­tish Columbians.

Over and again, we are hear­ing of how Coastal GasLink has dili­gently con­sulted and de­vel­oped ben­e­fit agree­ments with all the band coun­cils along the pro­posed route. But now, the Wet’suwet’en hered­i­tary chiefs are at the fore­front of a broad and ever-widen­ing cir­cle of protest while Hor­gan and oth­ers con­tinue to ever more fee­bly spout about hav­ing ob­tained the prior agree­ment of all First Na­tions on the pipe­line’s path.

This rude sur­prise should not be a sur­prise at all, un­less Mr. Hor­gan was some­where sleep­ing like Rip van Win­kle all through the 1990s when the Del­ga­muukw case went through lower courts and ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Well-cov­ered by me­dia provin­cially, na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally, was the fact that in the Del­ga­muukw case, the plain­tiffs were not band coun­cils but hered­i­tary chiefs. These chiefs from both the Wet’suwet’en and the Gitxsan were fully rec­og­nized by the courts as the ap­pro­pri­ate plain­tiffs. The im­por­tant and largely favourable rul­ing on their claim was made ac­cord­ingly. One can find the names and ter­ri­to­rial con­nec­tion for all 51 hered­i­tary chiefs, start­ing with Del­ga­muukw (Earl Mul­doe), in the fi­nal SCC de­ci­sion from De­cem­ber, 1997. On the other hand, one would search in vain for the name of any plain­tiff/claimant on be­half of an In­dian Act-cre­ated band coun­cils. Not ex­actly an ob­scure se­cret. Given that prom­i­nent, in­deed, land­mark case, and with all the time, money and le­gal ad­vice that Coastal GasLink and the Gov­ern­ment of Bri­tish Columbia have at their dis­posal, it beg­gars be­lief that they all could have been so con­fused about whose con­sent would be re­quired for a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment on Wet’suwet’en ter­ri­tory.

A cynic might even think this ig­no­rance was wil­ful.

The im­por­tant and largely favourable rul­ing on their claim was made ac­cord­ingly.

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