Wet’suwet’en conflict is not what most think


What most people do not understand about the dispute over Coastal GasLink’s pipeline to Kitimat B.C. is that at the root of the conflict is a conflict between hereditary chiefs and elected chiefs.

In the media, the conflict is portrayed as one between hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs and an energy company seeking to steal their land.

Rarely, is it mentioned that the elected representatives of the Wet’suwet’en people, in consultation with their people, have overwhelmingly voiced their approval of the pipeline and entered into agreements with the company and the provincial government.

Let that sink in. The elected chiefs who have authority given them by the people in lawful elections have given their approval.

In other words, the rest of Canada is caught up in a conflict between hereditary chiefs and elected chiefs, between an archaic system of governance and one that recognizes the rights of individuals.

The conflict has been simmering for decades and been the subject of a number of court cases, with the province’s high court ruling in favor of the elected chiefs and the Supreme Court of Canada ruling essentially that the issue needed to be resolved through negotiation.

Matters came to a head in 2019 when the male hereditary chiefs sought to extend their control and stripped three women who were elected chiefs of their hereditary titles for opposing them and supporting the pipeline.

As a consequence, there now only nine hereditary chiefs (all male) and four vacant hereditary chief positions for the 13 clans. The hereditary chiefs are opposed to the pipeline, while the very people they are supposed to represent are overwhelmingly in favor of it.

It doesn’t get any more stupid than this.

In effect, all the supporters of the hereditary chiefs are arguing that the Wet’suwet’en people themselves should bow down before unelected leaders.

Nonsense. This is the 21st Century. This is Canada. We do not disenfranchise people. We do not support patriarchal, archaic systems.

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