The Gitksan Government Commission (GGC) held its annual general meeting last Wednesday to let community members know about what it has done over the past year and what is planned down the road.
Directors from all sectors provided reports on social development, lands, litigation, band membership and education, among others.
Although few community members from the four local Bands covered by the GGC (Gitanyow, Gitanmaax, Glen Vowell and Kispiox) attended, the comprehensive meeting shed light on potential changes, which would put all GGC planning in jeopardy.
A B.C. organization called The First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC), a provincial organization lobbying for increased First Nations content in B.C. schools, reached a hiccup in negotiations regarding a provincial jurisdiction agreement that would give control to First Nations over their local education.
GGC Education Advisor, Marj McRae, made sure to highlight how detrimental she thinks the FNESC jurisdiction agreement could be.
“This is the erosion of essential and mandatory services to our people,” Marj said, referencing a national policy implementation.
“Prime Minister Harper has launched a major First Nations termination plan and the education process advanced by FNESC and Aboriginal and Northern Development Canada are vehicles used to implement this plan.”
AANDC, formerly Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, is the branch of the federal government designated to administer services guaranteed in the Indian Act, including responsibility for providing adequate education for all Aboriginal people in Canada.
The main reason the FNESC jurisdiction agreement is viewed as detrimental is because of a clause that would make any Band Council signee responsible for providing its own funding after five years.
Local Gitxsan organizations opted to retain their Indian Act privileges.
“Thank the good Creator that the GGC and the [Gitxsan Wet’suwet’en Education Society] had the insight to not only question the process,” Marj said, “but to decline from participating.”
But the Canadian government may have found a way around any such move.
A national First Nations Education Act, including a transfer of jurisdiction of financial responsibilities, is set to have a touring schedule regarding public consultation meetings before the new year.
Despite the likelihood of the dissolution of the Indian Act, the GGC has forged ahead within the existing federal framework.
Multi-year funding agreements began in 2010, but by 2014 no surplus in any program will be permitted, meaning any amount left at the end of a fiscal year will be clawed back by AANDC, Diane McRae, GGC executive director and finance manager said.
“Bands have got to ensure, in the meantime, that they’re following their five-year plan.”
AANDC demanded multi-year plans be developed by all bands in Canada.
Sandra Harris, GGC social development advisor, has projects either operating currently or ready to begin, including, The Active Measures – Bridges to Success project geared to train people on social assistance to build skills applicable for the local job market.
The project currently has $977,000 at its disposal.
Heather Barnes, GGC registry administrator discussed Band membership, new status cards and registration.
Registration only occurs if parents put the names of their children in to the proper band office, she explained, any transfer of membership must be approved by Band council after a review of an individual’s transfer package.
New status cards that will double as passports to the U.S. will be available in the near future, Barnes said.
For more information call the Gitksan Government Commission at 250-842-2248 or visit www.gitxsangc.com.