After months of debate between the Gitxsan Treaty Society and the Gitxsan Unity Movement, Supreme Court Justice McEwen handed down his ruling on the current court case last Tuesday.
While he adjourned the petition, retaining jurisdiction to make further orders if necessary, neither the GTS nor the Spookw plaintiffs got the results they sought, but both sides view the ruling in different light and feel positive about the future.
For GTS spokesperson, Bev Clifton Percival, Justice McEwen reaffirmed the importance the GTS continue to exist.
“The judge stated it was “important the GTS continue” and added, “Continuance of the GTS is also the best means to protect the interests of the Treaty Commission and the Government respondents as well.”
“He adjourned the petition on the basis that he expected a better model for open participation and membership to be developed. In essence, he turned the matter back to the Gitxsan to resolve.”
However for members of the GUM such as Marge McRae, the decision reaffirmed their beliefs.
“The GTS was directed by Judge McEwan to put forward another proposal to show the Court they can be made valid by presenting a process that includes all people who want to participate,” the Gitxsan Government Commission stated in a press release.
“Opponents to the GTS proposal claimed the GTS continues to act in a secretive manner, taking direction from a few select and supportive Hereditary Chiefs and individuals who purport to represent the Gitxsan.
“Furthermore the Spookw plaintiffs said the current problems with the GTS bylaws were, “too serious to be fixed by the court.”
“GTS constitution and bylaws have numerous problems that can’t be fixed,” McRae said.
“For example, existing bylaws do not allow children of Gitxsan men and non-Gitxsan women to have any rights unless they are traditionally adopted.
“There’s also no recognition of elected governments of Gitxsan communities.”
While the judge stated he expects a better model for open participation and membership to be developed, GTS negotiator, Beverly Clifton Percival said the judge turned the matter back to the Gitxsan to resolve.
“We agree with the court’s sentiment that it is important for the Gitxsan people to work together, and the GTS is committed to using the Gitxsan’s long-standing laws and hereditary system of governance to do so,” she said.
“We think a Gitxsan-made solution will better serve the Gitxsan people, so we welcome this opportunity, granted by the court.”
Starr also added the meeting the GTS held in January showed strong support for them to move forward.
“The GTS recognizes all Gitxsan people have an interest in treaty negotiations, particularly the younger generations,” Starr explained.
“The GTS also respects the will of the Gitxsan Simgiigyet, expressed at a January 17, 2012 Gimlitxwit, at which a strong majority of the Simgiigyet affirmed their support for the GTS, and voted in favour of becoming GTS members with the right to control the society.”
However the January meeting is not viewed in the same light by the GUM who argue they have shown many do not support the GTS.
“According to Gitxsan law, GTS has no standing in Gitxsan society because 85 Hereditary House and wing Chiefs have signed declarations that GTS cannot represent them in any negotiations,” McRae said.
“For that reason, few if any Chiefs gave them permission to continue to operate.”
In the end both sides say they are positive about moving forward.
GUM member, John O, feels they are all on the right path.
“It’s a step closer to unity, a lot of work to be done still,” he said.
“What an exciting time to be Gitxsan.”