The question of authority shouldn’t divide First Nations – by Ellis Ross (Vancouver Sun – January 26, 2020)

Ellis Ross is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Skeena and was chief councillor for the Haisla First Nation from 2013 to 2017.

The heated debate over who holds authority over the territory of First Nations — be it hereditary chiefs or elected band leaders — may serve the interests of those seeking to disrupt construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, but it does absolutely nothing for the well-being of an average Aboriginal living on reserve.

As an elected councillor for the Haisla First Nation, and later chief councillor, I grew up experiencing dismal employment prospects, children being raised in poverty, tragic suicides, and horrific rates of Aboriginal youth ending up in the prison system.

We’ve always had to cope with outsiders and so-called experts telling us who best represents First Nations, or what we should do within our own territory. Yet none of these people have ever lived on reserve or spent any significant time with the people who actually live there.

Think about it. It would be the same as me telling the people of British Columbia to denounce the federal or provincial government because the Queen of England has the final say in all matters. Sorry, democracy doesn’t work that way.

The only people who have a right to decide who represents them are the band members themselves. The fact is all 20 First Nations whose territory runs along the pathway of the Coastal GasLink pipeline — including the Wet’suwet’en — have each signed agreements with the company.

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