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Two First Nations split $37.2 million in B.C. grants

B.C. government funds include lump-sum of $30 million to one Nation and $7.2 million to nine hereditary chiefs in a second
Pipeline protests in Vancouver in support of blockade, March 2020| Rob Kruyt

Thirteen months after Hereditary Chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation organized a protest that barricaded work on the $6.6 billion  Coastal Gaslink in Northern B.C. – and sparked supportive protests across the country -  the chiefs have been given a $7.22 million grant by the B.C. government.

The three-year grant to the nine Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs is meant to “support work to implement Wet’suwet’en title and rights.”

The 255-member Wet'suwet'en Nation comprises five clans, under which there are 13 house groups, each with a hereditary head chief. Four positions are vacant, meaning there are currently nine chiefs, eight of whom have voiced opposition to the natural gas pipeline.

The natural gas pipeline is supported by elected Wet'suwet'en leaders.

The funding, according to an April 16 B.C .government statement, ”will support the Wet’suwet’en in their work on governance and the shared goal of reunification within Wet’suwet’en Nation.”

Some of the new funding will be used to renovate a former school property, which Wet’suwet’en Nation bought in 2020 through a $1.23-million grant from the province.

The $7.22 million in new grant funding “is not a repayable loan or treaty payment,” the government statement added.

Also on April 16, the province provided $30 million in a lump-sum to the 2,500-member Babine Lake First Nation, which neighbours the Wet’suwet’en.

Funding under a 2020 foundation agreement with the Babine – a total of $43 million in provincial funding over five years and 20,000 hectares of provincial Crown land -  provided $1 million last September and was scheduled to provide another $7 million this year.

But “to support Lake Babine economic recovery” the province is now providing all $30 million committed of the forestry and economic development funds in the foundation agreement immediately, according to Murray Rankin, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

“A key aspect of the foundation agreement is the provision of immediate benefits to Lake Babine Nation that can be deployed to build our economy for the benefit of the Lake Babine Nation people,” said Chief Gordon Alec, Lake Babine Nation.