Talks between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, B.C., Canada break down before they get started

The chiefs were supposed to meet with representatives of the provincial and federal governments.

Widely anticipated talks that were expected to bring calm after weeks of blockades rocked the country  were “abruptly declined” Wednesday, a hereditary chief from northwestern B.C. said late in the day.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary house Chief Na’moks, also known as John Ridsdale, texted reporters the news:

“They cancelled ten minutes ago!” he said of B.C. and Canada. “We would not ask other nations (sic) allies to step down so both Governments have walked away!”

The chiefs were supposed to meet with representatives of the provincial and federal governments and send a message to other Indigenous nations to stop blocking intersections, ports and train tracks.

At least “as a period of peace and respect” while negotiations around a controversial pipeline route through Wet’suwet’en traditional territory were underway, said a statement from B.C. Premier John Horgan’s office, “which would include encouraging their supporters to remove blockades.”

READ MORE: Federal government waiting on word from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on proposed talks

But Na’moks, in a later statement, said the Wet’suwet’en can’t speak on another nation’s behalf.

And he appeared to encourage the blockades to keep going.

“We thank our supporters for their tireless dedication and respectfully ask for their continued support,” he said in the short statement.

A support chief echoed Na’moks’ sentiment.

“We were close but in the end, weren’t able to agree to preconditions,” said Ste ohn tsiy, also known as Rob Alfred, on Twitter.

“The govts (sic) wanted Wet’suwet’en to publicly dictate how other nations support us. It’s against our law to trespass like that.”

Alfred said in a series of tweets the parties have been in pre-talks for two days but didn’t actually meet.

He and Horgan said separately the door remains open to future talks but nothing was scheduled.

“Things are tense,” Alfred tweeted.

Some supporters have been arrested as police have enforced injunctions aimed at clearing infrastructure, and political and online attacks are heating up as solidarity demonstrations continue across Canada roiling passenger and freight traffic.

Earlier in the day, federal politicians condemned protesters for throwing burning tires onto train tracks in Ontario, and worried aloud they could be injured or worse.

 

 

 

 

 

Investigative Reporter / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for aptnnews.ca. A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.