Bigstone road blockade directive withdrawn

Friday, March 17th, 2017 12:38am

By Shari Narine
Windspeaker Contributor

The end of three days of action monitoring traffic entering the Bigstone Cree Nation does not mean the Nation’s concerns have been met. First Nation members have been told to stand down by chief and council.

“Like any politician, they make bad decisions, good decisions. No different than the provincial government. When they make a decision, good or bad, they stand by their decision or withdraw the decision,” said Chief Gordon Auger. He said this decision has been withdrawn.

“We want to re-strategize,” he said, but would not offer any details or timelines. “It’s something we need to do more professionally.”

Chief and council issued a public notice March 15, effective at 3:40 p.m., to remove all toll stations and monitors on highways 754 and 813.

The notice went on to say: “we will continue to affirm the ‘spirit and intent of the treaty.’ The decision made is not to be taken as a defeat.”

The notice did not say what would come next.

Late Monday morning, vehicle toll stations were set up on the two highways. The action appeared to be in line with a Feb. 20 letter sent to Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan saying vehicles from multi-national oil, gas and forestry industry corporations would be barred access until Bigstone Cree Nation’s concerns – including lack of local employment and water use – were addressed. The band noted on its website about a dozen companies that were on a “no entry” list.

The RCMP said about 15 vehicles were turned away when the checkpoints initially went up. RCMP confirmed today that the “peaceful demonstration” had ended and the checkpoints taken down.

From the start of the road action there has been confusion. Auger told on Monday that it was “never the plan” to block multinationals from entering the First Nation. He said the steps were taken because the management team had misinterpreted his directive.

That “misinterpretation” has been set at a price tag of $25,000 to $30,000. Auger would not confirm the figure, saying only “it was a good decision and we have a reason to do so.”

Moving forward, Auger says a better plan will be put in place but “it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take time…the plan is between ourselves, and the plan is we’re going to do it right.”

Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan says a government-appointed envoy will continue to work with chief and council.

“(The envoy is) working with them to develop strategies around the outcomes they would like to see,” said Feehan.

Chief and council met with Feehan last week and Feehan adds he spoke to Auger almost every day.

“They indicated they would like to see a change in their economic circumstances and they would hope that their relationship with the industry around them would help them do that. We’re going to be supportive of that relationship,” said Feehan.