LETTER: Indigenous rights cannot be denied

From reader Michael Jessen

Scientists know that First Nations people have lived in what is now Canada for at least 12,000 years. Europeans arrived about 500 years ago and colonized the land.

At first, Indigenous people were treated as allies. As more and more settlers arrived from Europe and the demand for land increased, administrators began to regard First Nations populations as dependents and an impediment to growth and prosperity. This began decades of legislated assimilation.

The laws of Indigenous peoples, including the Wet’suwet’en, predate those of Canada, are equally authoritative, and are entitled to respect. The Crown has a moral duty to engage in good faith negotiations with the Wet’suwet’en to resolve the issue of ownership and jurisdiction over their ancestral lands. These negotiations must be recognized as being between two systems of legal and political authority.

Denial of Indigenous rights cannot continue just because it inconveniences so-called economic development by self-interested governments and corporations. If Indigenous people do not have the right to veto pipeline projects impacting their lands and waters, who does? I want Canadian provinces and the federal government to stop basing their economies on the oppression of Indigenous peoples’ rights. Aboriginal land title issues must be resolved.

Michael Jessen


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