Talks with hereditary chiefs run into the night

Ministers expected to make statement Saturday morning

Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs gather outside the Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers where talks continued with federal and provincial ministers. (Quinn Bender photo)

Talks continued late into Friday night with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and government ministers but all paties were ready to extend discussions into the weekend.

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser are expected to make a statement Saturday morning.

The two ministers scheduled two days to meet with the chiefs in Smithers over their dispute of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline approval.

Friday morning ministers and hereditary chief Na’moks all said they were optimistic heading into discussions. By 9 p.m. those discussions were still underway.

Earlier in the day the province’s appointed liaison, former Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, told Black Press all sides were highly motivated to find a solution.

“There are many tracks being pursued at the same time…this afternoon we might find steps to solutions, but maybe not the final one,” Cullen said. “You have to keep in mind, there is a complicated, long-standing set of concerns that not only deal with the pipeline. So any meaningful solution that’s going to be arrived at is probably not going to happen in a day and a half.”

The meetings come amid continuing protests and road and rail blockades across the country, including at the B.C. Legislature this week. The protests have been ongoing since early February in opposition to the Coastal GasLink, a 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline being built through Wet’suwet’en traditional lands. The hereditary chiefs argue the elected band councils who gave their support to the project and signed benefits agreements with the company did not have the authority to do so.

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