“For me, it is about humility,”Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said during the news conference where she and her provincial counterpart and one of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs announced a tentative agreement recognizing the hereditary governance system.
“It is about learning and for all that we have learned over these days, and the work that we’ve been able to do with respect,” she added. It is, as Chief Woos said, a milestone in the history of Canada.”
Milestone? Just what did the two senior levels of government agree to?
It’s clear that whatever agreement was hammered out, it did not resolve the opposition to CoastalGasLinks’ pipeline.
Chief Woos, who is also known as Frank Alec, told reporters the chiefs continue to oppose the pipeline and that the dispute is far from over.
All of which leaves one to speculate that the “milestone” was some sort recognition of the hereditary governance system.
What that means in practice, though, remains to be seen.
The Wet’suwet’en are clearly divided.
Chief Woos intimated that the details of the review by the Wet’suwet’en have yet to be worked out.
Will it be by a vote or referendum of some sort?
Who will be allowed to vote?
Or will the review consist of some sort of show of hands?
At issue, is legitimacy.
The hereditary chiefs, after all, have already stripped three women of their hereditary titles. That was done contrary to custom and tribal law, say the women involved.
Those three female chiefs supported the pipeline, as does every band along the route.
Frank Alec, in fact, assumed one of those titles a year ago and the female chief bitterly disputes his actions.
If the governance agreement is not ratified by all the Wet’suwet’en in a vote that is fair, what will have been accomplished?
There are Wet’suwet’en that says the hereditary chiefs do not speak for them.
In a democracy, legitimacy is conferred by elections, by the people voting in elections, by the people voting without fear of reprisal.
Whether this agreement is a “milestone” remains to be seen.