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Bellegarde, Saganash: First Nations Are Rights Holders, Not Stakeholders

Mark Klotz/flickr

Federal and provincial governments can’t keep discussing the dispute over Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion when the nations that hold title to the land aren’t at the table, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and NDP MP Romeo Saganash asserted in interviews late last week.

“First Nations are not stakeholders,” Bellegarde told iPolitics [subs req’d]. “First Nations are rights holders and title holders, and we must be involved from the outset and throughout the decision-making process.”

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Once again, Indigenous Peoples from BC excluded, in spite of the fact that they are a most important consideration. I don’t think Horgan, Notley nor Trudeau will/can speak on their behalf,” Saganash tweeted [2] Thursday.

“If we decide to exclude them, like what is being proposed right now, then that’s a huge mistake and I think Trudeau will regret that—and both premiers as well,” he added in an interview. “When the ‘national interest’ and the ‘rule of law’ are invoked, it is usually against” Indigenous peoples’ interests.

Saganash “recommended that Trudeau hit reset on the discussions to bring Indigenous peoples into the fold,” iPolitics states.

“I remind all governments that it is not too late to engage our peoples,” Bellegarde agreed. “This approach is better for everyone involved and leads to better decisions and better outcomes.”

CTV News cites [3] Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and Stephen Buffalo of the Indian Resource Council agreeing that First Peoples must be at the table for any discussions on Trans Mountain—even though they’re driving for opposite outcomes.

“Without question, it represents a very stark contradiction to the commitments made by Prime Minister Trudeau with respect to a nation-to-nation relationship,” said Phillip, who has led much of the opposition to the project. “There are three jurisdictions in this country: federal, provincial and Indigenous,” and the other two jurisdictions must “know and understand that Indigenous jurisdiction, Indigenous land rights, and consent is at the heart of this issue.”

I think it’s imperative—imperative—that the federal government include us,” said Buffalo, who supports the pipeline. “Nation-to-nation is what Justin Trudeau said. You’d think that the premiers of the provinces would recognize that as well and open those doors.”