NEWS RELEASE · 15th May 2012
Gitxsan Unity Movement
Note - to protect individuals we aren't naming or quoting sources in this update. It was made obvious in court today that all our updates, facebook posts, and even cell texts are being collected as evidence. That just encourages us, but we don't want to implicate people who may not want to be.
In court today the GTS (Gitxsan Treaty Society) lawyer pressed hard for the arrest of four Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs who have been spokespeople for the Gitxsan Unity Movement. Observers reported that the judge was initially very angry that the blockade was still up, and demanded that the Chiefs be brought into court immediately. He refused to listen to arguments from lawyers for the Chiefs or the RCMP, and called on the RCMP to bring the Chiefs in to court. The chiefs met in downtown Old Hazelton at the fire with their blankets and prepared to be arrested. A phone call went out to all supporters, and within half an hour over 200 people showed up to support the chiefs. It is estimated that over 400 people came down within the hours after the phone call!
An observer reported that the GTS lawyer presented a number of statements to the judge that were either not true or out of context. A lawyer for one of the chiefs tried to reason with the Judge but was initially not successful. Counsel implored the Judge to consider the mediation efforts currently underway, but the Judge repeatedly dismissed their arguments. Observers praised the RCMP and their lawyers for their defense of the people and their refusal to create more conflict by enforcing the injunction against the blockade.
The arguments of the non-GTS lawyers infuriated the Judge, who seemed to believe that the Unity Movement along with all the Gitxsan who were against the GTS represented a very small portion of the population. A number of witnesses in court reported that the RCMP lawyer stated to the judge that there were over 175 people at the Chiefs building today on very short notice, and the Judge responded by saying "this isn't Oka", which was countered by the RCMP lawyer responded that "it could be". It's also reported that the Judge suggested to the RCMP lawyer that Gitxsan supporters at the blockade were cowardly and would just scatter and run away if the RCMP moved in to arrest.
It is obvious from statements in court that the large outpouring of support on the ground has had a very real impact on this struggle. The RCMP had members in from out of town on the ground as well as a special team waiting nearby. It appeared the headcounts done by RCMP members on the ground, which were reported back to court, definitely had an impact on the outcome today.
Witnesses reported the Judge, frustrated with the RCMP's refusal to arrest the Chiefs and enforce the injunction, is now considering ordering the Court Sheriffs to carry out the arrests. We've been told that this decision will happen in about a week. The representative for the Sheriffs has committed to being in touch with the Gitxsan to make sure things go smoothly should this happen.
This struggle is far from over. The Gitxsan Hereditary Cheifs and the Gitxsan people have made it clear that they do not want their Chiefs arrested. The Unity Movement and the Chiefs want a Gitxsan solution to the crisis. We have our own laws.
It is sad that the GTS continues to push their case in the BC Supreme Court and spend great amounts of money fighting their own Chiefs. A strong foundation for moving forward in a positive fashion has been created and put forward by the Chiefs in The Mothers Day Accord, which includes these main points:
1) That the injunction and lawsuits against the unity chiefs be dropped
2) That the blockade of the Chief's Office be lifted
3) That a impartial 3rd party secure contents of the building
4) That the Chiefs continue to meet until differences are worked out
There is a clear path here for resolution of the crisis, and it is a Gitxsan solution. We will continue to work for accountability, transparency, and for the return of authority to the Gitxsan Chiefs and the Gitxsan people.
Rule of law? Double Standard?
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 21st May 2012
With FN/Indians representing a vast majority (demographically) of inmates in Canadian jails, Ippel is correct. There is a double standard. If you are white and have money or are connected to families of influence, you have a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. Living "Off Reserve" for many is attempting to escape from the atrocious living standards and undrinkable water. Then, arriving in urban white Canada, they discover incredible bigotry and racist ostrasization. The return to a sweat lodge or healing circle is our governments attempt to balance the unfortunate wrong we (white Canada) created by forcibly removing children from loving families into brutal church run death camps.
Those Res school survivors are still suffering among us, it was not that long ago, they only recently closed the last one. We have at least two generations to wait for the most serious impacts to dissipate.
And yes, you are right too about new comers to Canada. We treat them better and respect their culture and traditions more than we do the original inhabitants, those who we would rather discard into jail cells.
This Judge is 'unlearned' rather than being a learned judge. His bigot spew was just that. He got mad at the RCMP for taking the time to respect the Indians who barely ever see respect.
How these people demand to be call 'Honourable' is beyond me. Like Judge Ramsey, the Judge who raped under age Indian girls in Prince George, this man might be charged with hate crimes. We are presently waiting for the transcripts. He along with Sebastion are both up for dismissal.
Comment by Janice Robinson on 18th May 2012
If you want to critique grammar here, I suggest that you employ proper grammar while doing so. Some commenters are not expressing "madness," as you are suggesting. Some issues, however, provoke "anger" in some commenters. I find your grammar pretty crappy too, but I still get the gist of what you're so feebly trying to say.
MBW, I suggest you return to the other local paper's website, and resume your eloquent dialogue where you extoll the virtues of all that stinky dog crap that dog owners shamelessly leave about our town. Fertilizer?! Most of us refuse to put up with crap.......dog or human. Sometimes, there is no nice way to bring common sense to your attention.
Comment by mbw on 17th May 2012
Everyone is getting so mad they can't even get their grammar and spelling right. Geez.
Comment by James Ippel on 16th May 2012
There is a double standard in this country when it comes to the Law. There is a section in the Crimminal Code which orders Judges to do everything in their power to avoid sending Natives to jail-no matter the CRIME. We see this time and again when Natives convicted of serious crimes are sentenced to a Sweat Lodge, or Healing Circle, where a white man would have been sentenced to jail time. Is this wrong? Yes it is when the accused has not lived on the Reserve, has not followed the ways of his people, has had nothing to do with native culture, but when he gets into trouble the first thing he brings out is that he/she is Native/First Nations.
I do not mean any disrespect when I write this, but you must admit that we have a multi tiered judicial system. Natives/First Nations are not the only ones who benefit from this. Look, how we as a Canadian society are contunually catering to people who come here and impose their ways on us.
"The Law Of the Land" is the generally accepted principals that the " majority" of society has agreed to live by. Unfortunately, in such a diverse society as we have in Canada, this is continually being abused.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 16th May 2012
I would be interested to know how the principle movers in the GTS got their authority. How is the authority to be a spokesperson determined? Was it by an election? Was it by a document signed by certain chiefs? If so who are they and were they a majority? How was the function run at which this was decided? Or, was it a completely different and legitimate traditional process? And, where did they get all their funding to operate GTS.
It is puzzling that a Judge from another culture ( never named of course) comes to a decision to lock up those who are protesting what should be an internal First Nations matter. Is it a power struggle? It is all a bit puzzling that this matter has not been resolved.
James Ippel, I am pretty sure you need help...
Comment by Nancy on 15th May 2012
The judge has been fully appraised of the facts and is not getting his way!
And if you study your history there is a law that protects Indigenous Peoples, all over the Globe.
And as for any law that benefits the native peoples, I have yet to see the results of such law.
And since when do "law abiding natives" worry about being in the eyes of society?
If there is any, they are few, and they are ashamed or just too damaged to resist the temptation of $$$.
There are no radicals, they are decedents of Great Chiefs, great law abiding Chiefs! Their Law! And rightly So!
As for the "Law of the Land", This Law was born by our Chiefs! Where do you think this expression came from?
I would like you to put yourself in these Chief's place, if it was your Ancestors, your Territory, from where ever you came from, What would you do?
Maybe you come from a conquered country, fine, but for you to move here and judge us, like it was us coming to take over your country, and your resources in the beginning, would you say the same?
Comment by James Ippel on 15th May 2012
I think the Judge has been fully appraised of the facts, and is getting pissed off that his directions are not being carried out..
I thought there was one law in this country of ours that applied to everyone. How wrong I am. We have a law that applies to Whites, and it apparently applies to the Nativesonly if they agree with it, and it is beneficial to them.
Sadly this makes so many law abiding Natives lumped in with the radicals in the eyes of society, and this is wrong.
It is time to obey the law, get rid of your blockade, and abide with the law of the land.
scatter and run?
Comment by billbraam on 15th May 2012
I don't think the judge has been fully briefed on the situation. Scattering and running is one thing that won't happen. Sending in sheriffs will not be wise, it's time to rethink for the judge. Thank you