Cullen calls on feds to help avert summer tension on Skeena River

HAZELTON - Opposition Finance Critic Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley) today called on the federal government to immediately meet with Gitxsan leaders regarding their demand for an end to unauthorized use of claimed resources and territories by August 4.

“I am calling on senior staff and politicians at both DFO and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to engage with the Gitxsan to minimize further uncertainty and conflict around unsettled land claims,” Cullen said after speaking with Gitxsan Treaty Society Executive Director Gordon Sebastian this week.

Cullen said the Gitxsan call last week for a halt to all sportsfishing on the Skeena River and to forest industry and CN Rail operations is clear evidence of growing frustration with the federal government’s continued refusal to enter into respectful talks with First Nations.

“Even the Conservatives’ own special advisor has remarked on the federal government’s absence at negotiating tables aimed at resolving unsettled land claims and bringing much-needed certainty to the land base,” Cullen said.

“This simply cannot continue, especially in the wake of last month’s unanimous Supreme Court of Canada decision recognizing the aboriginal title and rights of the Tsilhqot’in.”

“People in the Northwest enjoy and respect the beauty and productivity of our unique land base,” Cullen said.  “Along with this enjoyment comes the responsibility to manage our resources wisely, but we cannot do this without federal participation at the negotiating table.”

Cullen notes the potential for the Gitxsan Skeena River action to significantly increase tensions on the land base and misunderstanding between Northwest aboriginal and non-aboriginal neighbors.

He said he and Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson, who also serves as provincial aboriginal affairs critic, will be working with communities and all levels of government to help resolve the Skeena River action.

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Contact: Shelley Browne, nathan.cullen.c1@parl.gc.ca; 250-877-4140