In the wake of ongoing blockades across the country that have impacted the economy, Carrier Sekani Tribal Chief Mina Holmes is reiterating her support for economic development in the North.
“We’ve worked hard to build relationships and build this regional economy,” she said. “I think this is a new approach for a collective of First Nations to build, in partnership with our neighbours, the economic opportunities, whatever they are, across the North.”
She’s supportive of economic development, as long as the Carrier Sekani First Nations are engaged at all stages of the process, and that engagement follows the principles behind the BC Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular the principle of free, prior and informed consent.
“When we do our well, we know that, by default, our neighbours will do well,” she said. “We want to be partners in building a strong economy. We want to be partners in building a strong, resilient population in the North. We want to be partners in building opportunities that are meaningful and long term … We must look past our differences and focus on our commonalities.”
Holmes defended Carrier Sekani First Nations’ rights to make decisions about their territory. Regarding the Coastal GasLink pipeline she stressed that project gained support from many of the communities associated with Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, and the support of the Carrier Sekani First Nations.
“The communities have gone through extensive and rigorous engagement on this file,” she said. “Our values are now being taken seriously by the province and by industry thanks to our hard work. Building these good relationships has not been easy, and we are not going to throw away the gains we’ve made. Many opportunities created in this territory are because of the hard work of our elected chiefs and councils and our hereditary systems, while we operate in a democratically elected system, and we need to support our communities’ rights and interests as well.”
While the blockades have had an impact on the economy with rail traffic being impacted, Holmes says the human impact on indigenous people is just as bad.
“What I am seeing is blatant, out-there racism that our children are suffering from now from blockades that they’re not even participating in,” she said.
Holmes is also awaiting word on what the agreement, hammered out last weekend between Ottawa, Victoria and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposing the pipeline, will contain.
“I do hope the communities that are involved are all participatory to the discussions and part of the solution,” she said. “ … If it’s historic and game-changing, then I’m excited to see what that is.”
Key Points from the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council:
- The Carrier Sekani peoples are not against industry or resource activity; however, proponents need to understand that the Carrier Sekani are the original caretakers and managers of their territories, and must be part of any project to ensure ethical and responsible management.
- Characterizing elected leaders as illegitimate is unfair and unnecessarily divisive.
- It is important to know that the elected chiefs have done the work over decades and have done great service for native people of this country.
- Many elected leaders are in fact hereditary leaders.
- Hereditary chiefs are also integral to this process of moving forward.