Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
The Wet'suwet'en of north central British Columbia are a progressive First Nation who have recently been involved in direct action against a major LNG project in their territory. While this was a protest against a pipeline development, the more important issue is regarding Indigenous rights and title, which has not been settled in most of British Columbia, a pre-treaty environment. This is particularly problematic when it plays out in resource management processes, where regulatory processes do not allow for the proper consideration of intangible forms of heritage and culture. One of the stated goals of both the federal and provincial governments is to decolonize the laws and structures within Canada. This means that the hereditary chief system of the Wet’suwet’en must be respected and upheld. And despite being supported by case law (such as the landmark Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa decision), Wet'suwet'en law is not being considered, which is resulting in the loss of their intangible heritage. It is the government’s duty is to ensure that development does not unjustly infringe on Indigenous interests. Provincial authorities need to account for, and in certain cases garner the consent of, impacted Indigenous peoples. Rather than trying to correct flawed resource-management regulatory processes, governments continue to use their ambiguity as an advantage. This must change if Canada is to keep its promise to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes free, prior and informed consent.