Speaking out about Unist’ot’en and Indigenous relations

Jan 9, 2019 | Blog, Governance | 4 comments

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy4l8QzHGII[/embedyt]

This has been an exceptionally tough few days.

I am deeply saddened by the actions, or inactions, of our governments to respectfully address the decade long Unist’ot’en protest camp in Wet’suwet’en territory.

To see the RCMP rolling up on Indigenous people in their territory and arrest them for standing for their land is incredibly unsettling. Especially knowing there could have been a different result.

Sonia and I spoke to reporters (see video below). We also spoke to the rally of protesters (see video above). While the current situation is entirely unacceptable, until we change the legal framework in our province and country, governments will continue to make decisions like the ones that led to the situation in Northern British Columbia.

This is why I, and my colleagues, are working with the government to get the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People into legislation in our province. This will be a critical step to fundamentally change the conversation.

We are clear: advancing Indigenous relations and reconciliation is a top priority of our caucus. Like I said to the reporters, while this government’s decisions get us to where we stand this week, they have moved this issue further than any government in the history of our province.

In that light, we continue to work with them to legislate a legal framework. And, I recommit to all British Columbians that this will continue to be a central focus of our work in 2019.

Footage from a media scrum comments during the rally

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8Tp-tyffLo[/embedyt]

The BC Greens Caucus statement is published below.


For immediate release
January 8, 2019

B.C. Green Caucus statement on Wet’suwet’en Protests

VICTORIA, B.C. – Adam Olsen, B.C. Greens spokesperson for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, released the following statement in response to the protests unfolding in the Wet’suwet’en territory.

“I’m tired of watching RCMP officers arresting Indigenous people who are protesting a project they feel puts their homeland at risk.

“The situation in the Wet’suwet’en territory and the Unist’ot’en camp has been ongoing since 2010. Frankly, there is no excuse for this current confrontation to end in arrests. It should have been resolved peacefully through respectful negotiation. This is another example of the abject failure of the status quo approach of governments to Indigenous relations in British Columbia.

“The B.C. Greens fully support the right of every British Columbian to protest peacefully.

“The only pathway to end these standoffs is to embrace and implement the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into B.C.’s legal framework. Our caucus believes that we need new legislation introduced as soon as possible so that we can take concrete steps towards true reconciliation based on meaningful collaboration. That is why we made the implementation of UNDRIP a key part of our Confidence and Supply Agreement with the NDP and why we continue to work with government and First Nations on its introduction.

“We have a responsibility to embrace this challenge. We cannot keep talking about the rights of Indigenous peoples without doing the hard work of changing the systems and laws that currently exist.”


Media contact
Stephanie Siddon, Acting Press Secretary
+1 250-882-6187 | stephanie.siddon@leg.bc.ca

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  1. Jacob Enns

    I stand with you. How is it that I did not hear about this rally? Anything you want me to do just ask.

  2. Dianne Varga

    Getting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People into legislation in our province will be a critical step to fundamentally change the conversation, but only if UNDRIP is fully implemented, including the principle of free, prior and informed consent. First Nations must have the right to say no to proposed land use and resource development clearly and decisively, putting a stop to proposals, if that’s what they believe is in their best interests.

    Did you listen to Nathan Cullen on CBC Okanagan the other day? It starts at 1:31:12 here. https://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/daybreak-south/episode/15661443. There’s nothing about self-determination and the right to say no. Cullen tosses around the word “reconciliation” in the context of UNDRIP and the need to make both reconciliation and UNDRIP “real,” but it’s impossible to know what he could mean by real. To have the “40-billion dollar project done and done properly,” he figures that damage to property and to rights and title needs to be acknowledged, and then it needs to be argued in court that such damage is in the larger public good. The discussion could then turn to mitigation of such damage. That, of course, has nothing to do with the self-determination and free, prior and informed principles that are described in UNDRIP.

    You and I have gone over UNDRIP at length, Adam, and your position has been no different from Andrew Weaver’s. If the right conversations happen, everyone will magically get to yes. You refused to entertain a scenario where an Indigenous group might, after all the conversations were had, still say no to a proposal that’s not in their best interests. I figure that’s a problem.

    • Adam Olsen

      Interesting. I appreciate your comments but I don’t agree with your assessment of my opinion.

  3. Dianne Varga

    Nathan Cullen does a lot better here than he did the other day with Chris Walker at CBC Okanagan. Here, he suggests that the standard of consultation and accommodation should only operate when two Indigenous land title-holders are in conflict over whether a project should proceed. Without explaining why, he thinks the project should proceed and accommodation should occur.

    The other day at CBC, he didn’t make that distinction at all. He didn’t discuss the possibility of withholding consent, the possibility of saying no to land use or resource development, as he does here. The only thing he discussed was consultation and accommodation, as if that was the only item on the menu.


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