Gitxsan hereditary chiefs, along with the Gitanmaax Indian Band, Glen Vowell Indian Band, Gitwangak Indian Band, Kispiox Indian Band and Gitksan Local Services Society, have lost in a decision in the Supreme Court against the B.C. Treaty Commission.
In a judgement dated July 26, the Honourable Mr. Justice Kelleher explained his position regarding the application.
While the plaintiffs’ have claims against the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS) and the governments, this particular application argued that the British Columbia Treaty Commission has acted negligently as they owe a duty of care to the plaintiffs to oversee the negotiation process and ensure that the negotiators have a proper mandate.
As explained by Kelleher, the Commission’s function is to receive statements of intent to negotiate from First Nations, allocate treaty negotiation funds to First Nations, assess the readiness of parties to commence negotiating a framework agreement, and assist the negotiating parties to reach an agreement.
“The plaintiffs’ case is that the Commission breached its duty of care by failing to meet the standard of care required by a reasonable and prudent facilitator of the treaty process,” said Kelleher. “Including failing to ensure that the GTS has a valid mandate and is representative and accountable to the Gitxsan people.”
The argument comes from the fact that various Gitxsan people have told the Commission that the GTS does not represent them.
However the Justice found that the plaintiffs’ argument would “turn the role of the Commission somewhat on its head.”
“The Commission is required to respect the self-governance of the First Nation at the treaty table,” he said. “I am not persuaded that the Commission has a duty to involve itself in the governance of a First Nation by acting to protect the interests of a minority group within the Nation.”
He said the Commission is intended to be an impartial and arms-length body that cannot be involved in the internal structure and processes of the Gitxsan Nation.