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COMMENTARY · 11th December 2011
Merv Ritchie
This is the claim recently made in a commentary Elmer Derrick submitted and had published in the Vancouver Sun, “Elmer Derrick is the hereditary chief of the Gitxsan Nation.” This is quite a claim to make. The question is, after accepting upwards of 20 million dollars from the BC Government to run the Gitxsan Treaty Society, does Derrick truly believe this to be a fact, that he is “The” Hereditary Chief?

The Vancouver Sun, and most of the mainstream media, has done a great disservice to all British Columbians. When the 61 First Nations issued a declaration of opposition to the Enbridge project the announcement did not get a bold and prominently featured front page headline. But when one man, Elmer Derrick makes a declaration he supported the Enbridge project, it became exactly that; a front page 'full page spread' declaration of First Nations support for Enbridge.

The same thing happened in late November when most of the mainstream media reported the executive director of Coastal First Nations, Art Sterritt, declared they might consider supporting Enbridge. This was a twist of the truth and caused Sterritt and the Coastal First Nations to issue their own News release reaffirming their opposition.

The problem with these mainstream media mis-representations of the truth is they set the ground work for the future. When the Northwest communities begin standing in opposition to the construction of the pipeline the millions of Canadians who have read and believed the headlines will see the protesters as a fringe group. The vast majority of the population will have it in their heads, they will know they read it somewhere, the First Nations groups support Enbridge.

This is the great tragedy of allowing the Media to remain unchallenged in their mis-representation, and unfair presentation of the truth and the facts. Canadians become mis-informed and then confused on the truth. When did it become okay in Canada to have lies allowed to be printed as truth in our Nations newspapers and broadcast on the airwaves?

Elmer Derrick is not “The” Hereditary Chief. The truth is he has been involved in a court case for years where a number of Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs have been suing Derrick and the Treaty Society demanding he stop making the claim that he even speaks on behalf of the Hereditary Chiefs.

The Vancouver Sun should know this. All media present at the news conference when Enbridge and Derrick announced their new agreement to the world were listening as reporter after reporter asked Derrick where he got his authority and what Gitxsan members supported him in this position. They all heard how Derrick could not answer. They all heard him say, “[I know the Gitxsan support this] just by talking to people.”

Some reporters could be heard expressing incredulity, some even openly chuckled at Derricks claims, yet none of the mainstream media allowed these real reports to grace their front pages.

The real headline should have been “Enbridge touts one man who is prepared to betray all Indians”. Now that would have been truth in reporting. But still the Vancouver Sun continues this charade. On December 8, 2011, on page A15 they devote a third page allowing Derrick to claim even more legitimacy with the claim he is “The” Hereditary Chief without so much as a whisper about the Gitxsan Nation locking him and his associates out of their offices and their declaration that they are all fired or the continuing lawsuit against them.

In June, 2011, after receiving documents from the Freedom of Information office, two reporters, Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak detailed the spying activities and the recruitment of “Indian Insiders” by the new Stephen Harper administration. Read their independent report here.

They had described Elmer Derrick and his actions a full six months prior to Derrick making this claim dividing his own Nations people.

CSIS, the Canadian Spy agency has even advertised to attract First Nations people to spy on their own people and report to the government. Read this independent report here.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s and even into the 1980’s the world population all knew the Russian Media was owned and controlled by the state. Nothing was printed they didn’t want printed. Every Russian knew this and every North American knew this. Today our main North American Media is only printing the government’s and industries side of most issues and are giving the untruthful messages full front page and repeated attention. If any opposing position is to receive any coverage it is scant and hidden in a back page, if printed at all. The difficulty today is how so many Canadians do not see this or understand it. It is almost as if the Russians of the last century were more advanced and knowledgeable than North Americans are today.

Read Derricks commentary by opening the attached file below. read a rough transcript of the media scrum and the questions put to Derrick by opening this story Here.
On the left is the Vanc Sun front page the day after the declaration by over 60 First Nations opposing Enbridge.  Right is the Vanc Sun front page the day after Elmer Derricks claim.
On the left is the Vanc Sun front page the day after the declaration by over 60 First Nations opposing Enbridge. Right is the Vanc Sun front page the day after Elmer Derricks claim.
Comment by Kim on 12th December 2011
Thank you,
May I...
Comment by Kim on 12th December 2011
reprint your article on my website Merv? Or would you prefer I hyperlink to your site? Thank you for your thoughtful pieces on these matters. The fact that 80% of BC citizens oppose tankers and the pipelines does not seem to come up in the corporate media. I wonder if the rest of Canada knows this. Maybe they see 80% of BC as a fringe group!

Feel free to reproduce it but please add a link to the site so your readers can access other articles, thanks
The photo of the two headlines...
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 12th December 2011
...really makes the point. A picture IS worth a thousand words. I have made comments critical of the role of the Mainstream Media. Examples of this are very frequent. I sometimes glance a the front pages of news stands as I walk by just to see what is making the front page after I already know what the big stories in the alternate media are.

I would make a fascinating study if done over a long term. Way to go Merv!