OTTAWA, March 10, 2020 /CNW/ - Today, Wet'suwet'en hereditary leader Theresa Tait Day will testify in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs to ask the Federal Government to ensure women leaders' voices are heard as her Nation resolves its governance issues.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs is convening in Ottawa today to study the Indigenous crisis in Quebec and Canada.
As a female leader whose voice has often been silenced, it is appropriate that Tait Day, whose Wet'suwet'en name is Wi'haliy'te, testify directly to the Government of Canada during the week following International Women's Day.
"As a female Wet'suwet'en member, hereditary chief and community leader, I want to be involved and have a voice in decision-making impacting my community," said Tait Day. "That is our way. But women's voices are not being heard because of the male hereditary chiefs working to quiet us. We are asking for the Federal Government's help to resolve this."
Tait Day is Co-Founder and President of the Wet'suwet'en Matrilineal Coalition of Chiefs and Members, an organization asked in 2015 by Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the community at large to develop and facilitate a decision-making process for major projects like LNG Canada and Coastal Gaslink. Over the last months, Canada has seen protests across the country, under the guise of supporting the Wet'suwet'en people. In actuality, a limited number of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs oppose the pipeline. The broader Wet'suwet'en community wants the project to proceed.
"The protest organizers are conveniently hiding beneath our blanket as Indigenous people, while forcing their policy goals at our expense," said Tait Day. "This compromises our Nation's social well-being and our people's economic futures."
All 20 elected First Nations governments along the approved Coastal GasLink route have signed project agreements. And, more than a third of all the work completed on this project has been conducted by Indigenous peoples. As of January 2020, over 350 Indigenous women and men, including Wet'suwet'en members, are working on the project. Indigenous businesses have been awarded $620 million in contract work for the project's right-of-way clearing, medical, security and camp management needs, with an additional estimated $400 million in contract and employment opportunities available for Indigenous and local B.C. communities during pipeline construction.
As a Hereditary Chief, Tait Day sees the value of an inclusive approach to governance in her Nation.
"There are some who say the current Indian Act system needs to be reformed—I agree, but that doesn't mean we can silence the decisions by those democratically elected councils," said Tait Day. "While imperfect, those elected councillors continue to speak for the people until a better model is implemented. All voices need to be listed to, not just a small group of dissident hereditary chiefs."
In presenting today, Tait Day respectfully asked the Federal Government to help ensure accountability and procedural fairness in decision-making in her Nation, including from the hereditary chiefs representing the Office of the Wet'suwet'en. She has also asked the Federal Government to provide the resources necessary for the Wet'suwet'en Nation to co-develop a path forward for economic reconciliation.
Theresa Tait Day, Wi'haliy'te, is a member of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, and hereditary sub-chief in the House Beside the Fire (Kun Beghyukh), which belongs to the Small Frog Clan (Laksilyu). Wi'haliy'te was trained by her grandparents to take on her hereditary leadership role and has been involved in the governance of the Wet'suwet'en community for many years in the feast hall. Her family has a history of advancing Indigenous rights, including her grandparents, who were involved in the ground-breaking rights and title cases Calder and the Delgamuukw-Gisdaway, as well as the formation of the Native Brotherhood of B.C. Tait Day served as the Director of Native Programs at the Legal Services Society of B.C. for almost a decade, and is a founding member of the First Nations Major Project Coalition and is Co-Founder and current President of the Wet'suwet'en Matrilineal Coalition, which has representation from five Wet'suwet'en clans.
A copy of Theresa Tait Day's testimony is available upon request.
SOURCE Theresa Tait Day, Wet’suwet’en
For further information: Laura Cropper, Coast Communications and Public Affairs, [email protected], 778.323.3827; Caroline Bleay, Coast Communications and Public Affairs, [email protected], 604.788.2781