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Nadleh Whut’en protest Recognition Act process

PRINCE GEORGE - Members of the Nadleh Whut’en Band First Nation interrupted discussion at today’s Recognition and Reconciliation Act regional session to protest the proposed legislation.

Approximately 150 people proceeded into the discussion hall to criticize the act, which they say abandons First Nations’ processes.

“Title is not something that they have the mandate to deal with, unless it’s dealt with through land owners, who are the traditional leaders,” said Larry Nooski, Nadleh Whut’en Elected Chief.

He said decisions about the land and its use should be made by the hereditary owners of the land, not elected members.

If the legislation were enacted, it's expected decisions would fall on the shoulders of leaders representing linguistic groups, instead of the 203 separate Nations that currently need to be consulted regarding their traditional territory.

Nadleh Whut’en leaders also opposed sections of the legislation recognizing Crown title.

“We’re agreeing in public and in the legislature that ministries have the same rights and title that we have,” said Martin Louie, hereditary Nadleh Whut’en land holder.

“Industries have a hard time dealing with us because they can’t just come in and do whatever they want, but we do it to try and protect the land in our own way. This way it will be easier for them to come in and do what they want.”

Louie said First Nations people in BC have been winning court cases for rights and title of traditional lands for over 20 years, and the proposed legislation, which prevents those court cases, would only weaken their rights as land holders.

He also said the legislation will find a lot of resistance from smaller Interior Nations.

“A major community like Prince George, Kamloops, Vancouver, Kelowna, a lot of their traditional lands are taken up by infrastructure... they’ve got no more traditional lands to call their own. So this legislation would work for them, but it won’t work for us.”

Nadleh Whut’en leaders will not take part in the rest of today’s session to demonstrate their disapproval.

“We are in support of the act,” said Chief Nooski. “We believe there should be some recognition and reconciliation of some sort, but not as it’s being presented. These people need to hear what’s being heard at these meetings, and now that they’ve heard they’re not satisfied with the content.”

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee.

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