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Letter of Support to the Westbank First Nation

Dear Chief Derrickson and Council Members,

We have been following the media coverage of the breakdown in treaty negotiations and the action taken by Westbank to unilaterally proceed to log timber in an area that falls within Westbankıs traditional territories.

The Aboriginal Rights Coalition (Victoria) stands in solidarity with the Westbank people in this action. For some time we have been disappointed in the slow pace of the Treaty Process and in the unreasonably long time taken by federal and provincial governments to recognize and respect aboriginal property rights as set out in Delgamuukw.

While we are not acquainted with all the details involved in the Westbank decision to take direct action in this instance, we believe that there comes a time when individuals and nations are morally in the right in taking direct action to preserve their rights and livelihood in the face of apparent neglect or unconscionable exploitation by governments or other agencies. It is our belief that federal and provincial governments have delayed too long in implementing their recognition of aboriginal title and facilitating aboriginal access to resources within their home territories. That delay is the more unjust in the face of a long history of economic and social oppression imposed on First Nations communities.

If part of the solution to a more workable Treaty Process is a revised policy on Interim Measures, we feel that Federal and provincial governments have had more than enough time to come forward with a workable policy permitting First Nations access to resources within their traditional territories even while negotiations on other issues continue.

We hope that negotiated settlements can provide the basis for relatively speedy recognition of aboriginal title and rights to self government. We remain hopeful that the Treaty Process can be improved so as to assist in relatively speedy negotiated settlement on all issues without sacrifice of inherent rights.

Yours in Solidarity,

Bill Eastman
for The Aboriginal Rights Coalition (Victoria)