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John Olson of the Gitxsan Unity Movement smiles at Paul Stanway and his featured misleading news stories as the GUM enjoys the evening
COMMENTARY · 7th June 2012
Merv Ritchie
Yesterday evening found the Gitxsan Unity Movement in excited apprehension. According to those present, a meeting with the RCMP in New Hazelton revealed the Department of Indian Affairs has agreed to provide auditors to review the financial affairs of the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS). Although not all of the issues are settled this single matter has been the most serious concern.

Reports of various accounting firms refusing to continue working for the GTS due to irregularities has surfaced during this six month long dispute and blockade of the GTS offices in Old Hazelton. At least two senior firms have stated they forced the GTS to fire them as they did not wish to continue. It is this admission which, through the attention of the RCMP and the courts, had Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) secure the services of Deloitte and Touche from Toronto. According to sources at the Gitxsan Unity Movement ‘Sacred Fire’ security camp, the auditors will be arriving Monday morning to begin their work.

According to the Hereditary Chiefs the employment of Elmer Derrick, Bev Percival and Gordon Sebastion is not in question; they have each been terminated from their respective positions. Sebastion however will apparently be allowed to assist the auditors in locating all the documents and information they require to conduct their inspections. It has been estimated the first stage of this process will last well into July.

This past week, Paul Stanway, the media spokesperson for the Enbridge Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline proposal, fabricated and disseminated news stories carried in many print and online publications on how the GTS deal with Enbridge was still valid and in effect. It was this arrangement that sparked the outrage of the Gitxsan Nation and the blockade of the GTS offices.

In December, 2012, Stanway, along with Janet Holder and Enbridge engineered a news conference the day after the Fraser Declaration opposing Enbridge and their Northern Gateway proposal was signed and publically announced. Stanway, a career media senior executive and senior media spokesperson for the Premier of Alberta prior to joining Enbridge, used Elmer Derrick and the Gitxsan to overshadow the announcement of the Fraser Declaration, which now has signatures representing over one hundred First Nation groups. The Main Stream Media, including the Sun newspaper chain, who Stanway worked with as a senior executive for decades, featured Derrick and the Gitxsan acceptance of Enbridge as their lead and front page stories and the Fraser Declaration, at that time signed by over 60 First Nation groups was barely mentioned.

It appears more than coincidental therefore that as INAC and the RCMP were securing the services of Canada’s top professional auditors to investigate the GTS, (the organization a Judge has previously declared as ‘illegally operating’), Stanway and Enbridge engineer yet another story to pre-empt this successful announcement by the Gitxsan Nation achieving their goal in potentially exposing the ‘irregular’ practices of the GTS.
Lack of information, notification and financial audits
Comment by Nancy on 8th June 2012
This problem can be seen on every reserve, all treaty offices and band offices should have total openess and transparency. Financial audits should be made available to all members. What is needed is an advocacy office in each community to release information to members and also look into conflict of interest situations. The administrations keep all pertenant information a secret until after the matter when there is no recourse if it something the members don't want. Also needed is a timeline, where the members get all information and a reasonable time to review agreements before a vote. Not just 2 hours, then vote. There are many concerned, intelligent members out there that want to make an "informed decision" but have to go through many obstacles to get information.
The beginning of the end
Comment by David on 7th June 2012
Finally GTS's finances will be audited. One wonders whether this will include corporate spin-offs, like Gitxsan Forest Products.

The real problem all along has been the lack of information. It's largely due to the lack of information that the imaginations of Gitxsan people go wild and they imagine their Chiefs having received massive sums of money with none of it being distributed to House members.

Hopefully, the audit will show that things are not as bad as people imagine and that most of the animosity is due to misunderstandings.

I hope they release how much Gordon Gibson was paid.