The Gitxsan Treaty Society, which have their office based in the Village of Hazelton, are saying they are being unfairly targeted by protesters after a controversial decision by some hereditary chiefs to sign an equity deal to benefit from Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project.
Under the banner of the Aboriginal Economics Benefits Package, the hereditary chiefs, represented by Chief Elmer Derrick, signed a document on Dec. 5 which gives them a potential $7 million under Enbridge’s proposed $5.5 billion pipeline plan to transport oil from Alberta to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.
The society, which was incorporated to support the Gitxsan nation in treaty and other negotiations, has been boarded up and blockaded by protestors since the announcement was made.
A Supreme Court of BC injunction was issued to prevent the society’s office building, located in the Village of Hazelton, from being restricted but the injunction left the discretion up to RCMP who have so far decided not to get involved.
The society issued a press release on Dec. 16 trying to clarify their involvement with the equity agreement.
In it, they said that they were not a participant in the negotiations nor a signatory to the agreement.
“The negotiation with Enbridge leading to this agreement was an initiative of the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs who participated in the Protocol Agreement with Enbridge in 2009,” the society said in the release.
Chief Elmer Derrick signed the agreement on behalf of the other hereditary chiefs, the release said. While Derrick is an employee of the Gitxsan Treaty Society as the chief negotiator, he was not acting in that capacity in regards to this agreement, the society said.
The society is hoping that all of the protesters will respect the BC Supreme Court injunction and allow people to return to the office.
Meanwhile, 90 per cent of those who took part in an online poll say they are against a deal with Enbridge and 100 per cent are opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline project.
The Gitxsan deal is the first of what Enbridge officials have been saying will be a series of economic benefits agreements for aboriginal people along the 1,100 km pipeline route.
It also calls for Enbridge to work with the Gitxsan chiefs on potential renewable power projects in the area.
The pipeline route does not go through Gitxsan traditional territory but Enbridge’s policy is to negotiate benefits agreements with aboriginal groups within 80km of the pipeline route’s right of way.
(With files from The Interior News, Smithers, BC)