Gitsxan hereditary chiefs have rejected an economic benefits agreement with Enbridge tied to its proposed $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline.
But they have also left the door open for future talks.
The deal, which would have provided about $7 million in profits through a Gitxsan part ownership in the pipeline as well as other benefits, became a focal point of ongoing internal dissension within the Gitxsan community.
The deal was rejected by a vote of 28-8 among Gitxsan hereditary chiefs who met last Tuesday, January 17 in Gitsegukla.
Release of the deal December 2 resulted in a storm of protest from some Gitsxan and a blockade of the Gitxsan Treaty Office by those opposed to the pipeline and to Elmer Derrick, a Gitxsan land claims negotiator and the hereditary chief who signed the deal.
The blockaders and others have also opposed the direction Derrick and treaty society officials have taken in land claims negotiations and have had a court action ongoing to wrest control of the society and negotiations from the treaty society.
A release from the Gitxsan Chiefs Office after last week’s meeting said “much more information is required from Enbridge to inform the chiefs on the agreement and the project and how they affect Gitxsan interests.”
Speaking on behalf of the chiefs, Gitxsan negotiator Beverley Clifton Percival said she was unaware of any new approaches being planned either by Enbridge or by the chiefs to discuss any new agreement.
And she described as “too speculative” any suggestion that Enbridge and the chiefs would come to a new agreement.
Although the chiefs rejected the current Enbridge deal, Clifton Percival did say she, Derrick and another chiefs’ office official, Gordon Sebastian remain employed.
The firing of the three had been announced several times by those at the blockade and other protestors who said the decision had been made by hereditary chiefs.
“No, we still have jobs and we still work for the chiefs,” said Clifton Percival.
The meeting also tightened the relationship between the hereditary chiefs by passing a resolution so that chiefs who wish to do so, can participate in the society by appointing its directors.
That was in partial response to recent court decisions which questioned the legitimacy of the treaty society because of the way it governs itself.
Those court decisions are part of an ongoing dispute between the chiefs’ office’s way of handling land claims negotiations and those who are opposed to the direction taken by the office.
“This was done in accordance with Gitxsan law,” said Clifton Percival of the resolution that was passed. “This was done to bring together the Gitxsan hereditary chiefs with the societies act,” she said. “Our decisions are made by the chiefs.”
The resolution to tighten the treaty society relationship passed by 94 per cent.
And a resolution to lift the chief’s office blockade was passed unanimously.
But Clifton Percival conceded there would be Gitxsan who would not be in favour of those decisions.