REPORTING · 18th May 2012
A provincial Supreme Court session in Smithers on May 14 produced no resolution to the blockade of a Hazelton building in the centre of the on-going stand-off between two sides of the deeply divided Gitxsan Nation. This dispute has seen hereditary chiefs in disagreement over representation, accountability, resource development and leadership.
The Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS) was seeking the December injunction to remove the blockade and charge Gitxsan Unity Movement (GUM) members Gilbert Johnson, Larry Patsey, Earl Muldon and Vernon Stephens with contempt of court.
It was a late and sputtering start as four members who had been summoned to be charged did not attend. A clearly frustrated Judge Mark McEwan went ahead and heard summaries from attorneys for the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS) and the RCMP.
Seeking contempt of court charges was called “an act of last resort with the hope that the threat of jail would bring an end to the blockade” by the GTS attorney from the office of J. McLean.
Ian Lawson, the GUM attorney, stated there had been a lack of good faith by GTS adding the original Judge who ordered the injunction nearly a half year ago was not given some vital “material facts” which were important to the situation.
McEwan insisted that motives for the blockade were not important, stating “every day the blockade continues the rule of law takes a beating.”
Lawson stressed “it’s about Enbridge” because the blockade action was taken by chiefs who felt betrayed by the people who were supposed to represent them by signing an agreement with Enbridge. Even if, as the GTS now claims the signing was done be a “rogue negotiator” acting alone, this incident was the foundation of the blockade.
The judge countered that it was not about Enbridge as the GUM people had no right to put the GTS out of their building. A motive is irrelevant to illegal action claimed McEwan stating “they cannot break the law to achieve their ends!”
It was after 12 noon when McEwan called Mr. Friesen, the attorney for the RCMP, and questioned him thoroughly about why no action had been taken to enforce the injunction, declaring “when the court makes a clear order there is not much more required for a mandate to move in.”
Friesen explained the RCMP were exercising operational discretion and they had been actively involved in on-going communications with the people involved in the blockade.
The courtroom was nearly filled with Gitxsan people from both groups who observed intently as the arguments, statements and lecturing by the judge continued. At times the crowd nodded in agreement or shook their heads in disbelief as the day went on.
A Gitxsan elder sitting in the hallway of the courthouse waiting for family members in the courtroom observed, “It’s just like the elders told me it would be, nearly 70 years ago now. They said what would happen and it’s all coming true, just like they said.” He did not say what he’d been told.
Divide & Conquer
Comment by Dave on 18th May 2012