The Gitxsan Treaty Society has laid-off all seven of their staff and had their legal team Bull, Housser and Tupper LLP file to no longer represent the society.
GTS staff, in a letter from chairperson Jim Angus, were formally notified of the change in employment Feb. 7.
The reason for the lay-offs, in the letter, is to ensure funding for the current legal battles the GTS is involved with.
“We need to stretch our money to the end of the year,” Gordon Sebastian, GTS executive director, said.
“Plus it will give people a chance to relax and hopefully end the sore feelings.”
Employees are scheduled to be welcomed back after the fiscal year is over on April 1, Sebastian said.
GTS board and Gimlitxwit meetings will still occur as scheduled, Sebastian added.
Sebastian noted that 15 Hereditary Chiefs have completely separated from the GTS and are no longer represented by the society.
The GTS remains a question mark pending a B.C. Supreme court decision.
“Everything’s adjourned until the judge decides on Section 85,” Sebastian said.
Section 85 refers to the Societies Act, specifically, in this instance, whether or not the GTS is a legal entity.
“As soon as Justice McEwan decides on Section 85, we can plan a course of action.”
Part of Justice McEwan’s previous orders to the GTS was to normalize itself by creating a board and establishing a proper membership.
Since a 2010 B.C. Court of Appeals decision only members of a society are able to appoint directors and board members, whereas, it was possible for people outside of a said society to do so previously.
“All we have done since Justice McEwan’s orders is to conform with that 2010 decision,” Sebastian said.
All of the current court battles the GTS is mired in hang in the balance as Justice McEwan deliberates.
Unfortunately that is not where GTS troubles end.
The GTS is also in transit where their own legal representation is concerned.
Bull, Housser and Tupper LLC (BHT), a firm that has represented the GTS for nearly four years has also created distance between itself and the GTS.
The BHT hearing to remove themselves was on Jan. 31.
There was no opposition from any other concerned party regarding the resignation.
BHT has been paid over $2 million by the GTS since the 2010 fiscal year began.
BHT filed an official affidavit on Jan. 10 in Vancouver to officially part ways with the GTS.
The official reasoning behind BHT’s resignation is not part of public record, as per confidentiality rules.
The GTS is now represented by Miller, Thomson LLP, a national business firm.
In the meantime the GTS is attempting to do what it was initially created to do, sign a beneficial treaty between the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs and the Canadian government.
Canada has initiated a new “results-based” treaty negotiation system, but the GTS are steadfast, according to a letter from GTS negotiator Beverley Clifton-Percival.
Clifton-Percival’s main concern, stated in the letter, is changes that would stagnate progress already made under the 1995 treaty framework.
A final agreement is possible before 2016, the letter states.