A group of Gitxsan hereditary chiefs have written to Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad raising concerns over a draft agreement that would secure financial benefits for the Gitxsan First Nation from TransCanada’s proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project.
The agreement, which is similar to one signed by the Nisga’a First Nation in November, would lock in a financial benefit of a set amount for the Gitxsan First Nation if TransCanada’s LNG project goes ahead.
Facilitated by the Gitxsan Development Corporation, negotiations about the agreement are underway between some Gitxsan hereditary chiefs and the B.C. government.
But three Gitxsan chiefs who oppose the development say the government is attempting to make a deal without the consent of all Gitxsan chiefs.
Chiefs Delgamuukw (Earl Muldon), Guuhadakw (Norman Stephens) and Dawamuxw (Larry Patsey) wrote to Minister Rustad to highlight their opposition to the agreement.
“Simgigyet of the Gitxsan United Chiefs are not in any way associated with the Office of the Gitxsan Chiefs, the Gitxsan Treaty Society or the Gitxsan Development Corporation,” the letter reads.
“These organizations are not representative of or have a mandate to speak on behalf of, or to have any involvement in the affairs of Simgigyet who have rejected treaty negotiations and the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS).”
The chiefs also state they will not be bound by the agreement if the Office of Gitxsan Chiefs become signatory to the agreement.
Chief Guuhadakw said the government was trying to bind the entire Gitxsan Nation despite their differing views.
“We’ve sent numerous letters to [the ministry] in the past with the same information telling them [the GTS] don’t represent us yet here they are attempting to get an agreement signed by them, getting them to say they are the authority to sign for this and that they are able to bind the Gitxsan Nation, which they actually aren’t,” he said.
Gitxsan Development Corporation president Rick Connors said the GDC had been facilitating discussions between chiefs and the relevant parties, however he said the organization did not speak on behalf of the Gitxsan First Nation.
“What we do do, is we conduct business on behalf of the hereditary chiefs that have basically created this corporation to move those initiatives forward and we’ve been working very diligently with the proponents to first off ensure that any economic benefits, whether it be from procurements or job employment directly on the line … before or after the project … to ensure our people, the Gitxsan people, have those opportunities if in fact this project comes to fruition.”
The Gitxsan Treaty Society referred The Interior News to the GDC for comment. The Ministry for Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation was also contacted but did not respond before the print deadline.