Tensions unfolding in a natural gas pipeline project in the north of .C. have raised questions about who a resource firm should consult among indigenous leaders when conducting a major project: hereditary bosses or elected councils?
Hereditary heads are in opposition to the bill, despite a judicial injunction. But several Wet & # 39; suwet & # 39;; s elected band councils signed agreements with Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of TransCanada Corp., for a pipeline to transport natural gas from the north of the country. to the coast, where a liquefied natural gas project is scheduled.
Here's a look at what we know about the situation:
Who is trying to stop the pipeline in Wet & # 39; suwet?
All First Nations bands, except the Hagwilget Nation Village Council, have signed agreements with Coastal Gaslink. This includes the first nation of Tyee's skin, the first nation of Wet? Suwet? En, the first nation of Witset and the band of Nee Tahi Buhn.
However, hereditary leaders say such agreements do not apply to traditional territories.
"All 13 house bosses from the five Wet & # 39; suwet? En clans were told not to pipeline all of our pipelines," says Carla Lewis, a clan spokeswoman. Gitdimt? En, who has a master's degree. in indigenous governance.
Lewis says these clans have ratified their opposition to all oil and gas expansion in their territory through a potlatch three years ago, after weighing the cultural, environmental and economic impacts.
Why are there two sets of authority within the Wet & # 39; suwet & # 39;
The band's board leadership has reached agreements with Coastal GasLink, but hereditary leadership opposes the project.
How does the band's leadership work?
A First Nations community has a chief election and council – based on the number of members they have – every two years. The leadership of the band's council is not a traditional form of government. On the contrary, they are creations of the Indian act.
While the people in the community elect a gang council, they are accountable to the federal government.
Bands were introduced by the federal government in 1876 as part of a post-Confederation policy of assimilation.
"The federal government felt that the way communities ruled themselves was the reverse," says Bob Joseph, founder of Indigenous Corporate Training, which helps companies and organizations work better with First Nations.
"It was a direct imposition on self-governing indigenous communities," Joseph said.
How does hereditary leadership work?
Hereditary leadership differs from community to community, but Wet & # 39; s leadership is based on a system based on clans and houses. A hereditary chief of Wet suwet en inherits his role through his matrilineal lineage through the potlatch system, which is his governing structure.
In the case of the Wet & # 39; suwet & # 39; en, if a hereditary boss is not taking a leadership role seriously or does not meet expectations, that person may be stripped of his / her hereditary role, and another person may be designated by other clan chiefs in a potlatch.
Different levels of decision and authority have created tensions between hereditary chiefs, provincial and federal governments, and gang councils.
How does a community decide who is in charge?
Each community is different, but Joseph says that, most of the time, school boards resolve the responsibilities normally taken by the federal government, such as medical care and education.
Wet su suwet en en Hereditary Chief Na? Mocks, one of the leaders protesting against the pipeline, describes its authority as to take care of the land and rights and title to it.
"Chiefs and elected councils only have jurisdiction within the confines of the reserve that they have been elected to serve and they are supporting the pipeline," said the chief Na? Moks.
"We have 22,000 square kilometers for which we are responsible," he added.
How does this authority stand in court?
Lawyers point to Delgamuukw's decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997 to describe how the authority in Wet & # 39; suwet & # 39; s territories is circumscribed.
This decision found that the rights and title of indigenous land did not die out at the time of colonization. The case was framed around traditional hereditary leadership, according to lawyers.
"Band councils are inherently a creation of the federal government and the Indigenous Act, so in many cases they do not align with pre-existing indigenous legal orders," said Kate Gunn, a lawyer at First People's Law in Vancouver.
She says that Delgamuukw's decision found that the nation Wet & # 39; suwet & en is organized and governed through the hereditary system.
"Whether the Indian Act bands signed agreements or not the nation's support and the process to get such support was not met," she said.
If you are a company like TransCanada, who do you consult with?
Bob Joseph says that when TransCanada – which announced plans to change its name to TC Energy on Wednesday – began the consultation process six years ago, the federal government at the time may have directed companies to talk to the boss and the advice.
But today, Joseph says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying to push for quick changes, such as dismantling the Indigenous Act – where the councils of the band get their power. Trudeau also spoke at length about how to treat indigenous groups from nation to nation and not under federal government.
Joseph says this may mean that companies like TransCanada should consult an entire community rather than a specific leadership. In turn, he says communities may have to hold referendums for the entire community before making decisions that are not all favorable.
On Tuesday, Trudeau told a group of indigenous leaders in Ottawa that "there is still much work to be done to repair the relationship between the federal government and First Nations."