Excerpt from Question Period in the B.C. Legislature on Monday, March 2, 2020.
P. Milobar: We, so far, seem to be getting more answers around the rights and title.
I’m just going to read from the joint statement on the discussions that was released by the government on Sunday, March 1, yesterday. “These talks focused on two separate topics: the recognition of the Wet’suwet’en rights and title throughout the yinta, the territory, and the issues arising out of the Coastal GasLink project. The topics were discussed separately.”
We understand that on this side. Our questions are primarily around Coastal GasLink and the protests and the blockades that have been happening. It was permitted. It was approved. It was underway on Wednesday. It was on Thursday, as well, when the minister went up. It still is today.
I think public expectation, throughout this whole process, has been that the reason the minister and the federal minister went up on Thursday to have these discussions was around the blockades and the impacts they were having to the local, the provincial and the federal economies out there.
That’s the expectation I think the general public had around this. I think we can even understand, to some degree, that, perhaps, the rights and title agreement that’s been struck — which, by their own release, is separate — may stay in camera for the next week or two.
Again, what was put into any agreements, if any, or any changes, if any, around the Coastal GasLink project? What assurances did the government get, if any, around the Coastal GasLink blockades and disruptions that we’re seeing in our economy as a result?
That seemed to be the driver for government to go up in the first place. As the minister has said, this has been an outstanding rights and title issue for 23 years. He didn’t just wake up Thursday morning and decide that was the day to go up there. It was the blockades interrupting the economy that drove him up there.
Hon. S. Fraser: I want to thank the member for the question.
Everyone at the table, where we met in Smithers, recognized that the differences relating to the Coastal GasLink project remain. Those differences remain. When we concluded our discussions, at least for the time being, yesterday, we stated publicly…. Chief Woos stated that it’s important that we proceed with respect. I also added to that that it’s important that we, both levels of government and the Wet’suwet’en people, are given the space to do the work that needs to continue.
I think that message is loud and clear. The right to peaceful protest is something that we all should respect — more than that — and defend in this House. The right to illegal activities is not condoned, I would think again, by everyone in this House. I think that was made clear as a result of our discussions.
Mr. Speaker: Member Kamloops–North Thompson on a supplemental.
P. Milobar: I guess we’ll try this tack, then. We know there’s an agreement that needs to be ratified, and it will be ratified through the Houses and traditional processes. We have our own ratification processes done in this House as well. So when will we know what the government has pledged to do? Will it be brought to the Legislature, and what exactly, within the agreement, is the ratification process the government has committed to for the government to make it official?
Hon. S. Fraser: The process that stands…. Chief Woos estimated that it may be up to two weeks to bring the clan protocols together. The work that will be done in the communities bringing together…. My expectation is all clans, the five clans within the Wet’suwet’en Nation…. The work that they will do will inform whether, I believe…. My hope is that they will endorse the work forward on the arrangement that we’ve made.
“Our hope is also that that will stay confidential until the Wet’suwet’en people have a chance to do that good work. My expectation is that following that, Minister Bennett and myself will return to the territory to sign the agreement. It will be made public at the point in time.
Source: B.C. Hansard