Gitxsan: a Critique of social control in treaty societies and the state

Gitxsan Unity Movement. May 18:

Or Why the Gitxsan Indians Are Broken Along with Everything Else

Merv Ritchie

When did purchasing a yes vote with money and benefits become legal? Apparently it has been completely legal for years as all businesses, governments and reserve villages have been doing it for years without sanction.

It was blatant and in full public view in June of 2006 when the BC government of Gordon Campbell offered the Teachers a $3700 signing bonus each if they accepted the contract. Since then signing bonuses have become regular visitors to negotiation tables, ‘forgo what is right and just, just say yes and we’ll give you cash.’

It has been this way for centuries as public company board members are delivered cash rewards for their vote of support. These men in the past were called “yes men”; people selected to be on the Board of Directors who could be counted on to say “Yes” to anything the Executive Board wanted. Very few directors ever challenge a decision and those who do so unsuccessfully find they are not promoted to more boards and lose their current board positions. The cash reward comes in many terms, but the most common term is a ‘per diem stipend’. This amount is usually substantial and some ‘yes men belong to enough boards their yes vote is in the significant 6 digit salary. Depending on which boards and how many, a real supportive director who keeps his or her mouth shut for years could be making many millions.

Some boards select specific individuals for their professional degrees or training, others for their status or position. Indians are selected because they are Indian. Some boards want to be able to claim they have a high ranking Indian on board. This allows them to claim they are listening to all perspectives. The truth is anything but.

Like Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointing Patrick Brazeau, the Indian involved in sexual harassment allegations, to be a Senator. He is selected not for his brains but for his willingness to take money for his compliance. And this is the foundation of the Gitxsan crises.

The GTS, Gitxsan Treaty Society, has as their two high ranking men, Gordon Sebastian and Elmer Derrick. Both have been accepting money on these terms from various Boards for years. It is no surprise then how they employed what they learned in their own society, the GTS. Even though the Constitution clearly states members and directors not to be paid anything, Sebastian and Derrick, along with co-conspirator, Bev Percival Clifton, have been taking vast sums of money for their work.

To be able to continue the charade without having others question their work or decisions they pay ‘per diem’ funds to Gitxsan Chiefs who show up and say yes. Those who say no or challenge them are asked not to return. Last Christmas every chief who was a ‘Yes Man/Woman’ received bonus cheques in the amount of thousands of dollars.

Vote buying used to be illegal. It was affront to proper democratic principals. But no more. Every executive member of every business or organization does it with impunity. It is fully public and a game many men and women happily play along with. Indians are the easiest.

When one has lived in poverty all their lives, watched their grandparents and parents starve in a drunken stupor of filth and despair or even one raised as an orphan, it is easy to draw one into accepting vast sums of money simply for saying yes.

The Gixsan crises in the Village of Old Hazelton where some Gitxsan have boarded up the offices of other Gitxsan actually has very little to do with Enbridge or Elmer Derrick signing a deal with Enbridge representatives. It has everything to do with taking money for saying yes. The GTS has accepted over 20 million dollars, indebting the Gitxsan people for almost the same amount. Various Gitxsan people along with Gitxsan Village Councils launched a lawsuit way back in 2008 claiming the GTS was not legitimate and were not representatives of the Gitxsan as a whole.

As one individual wrote yesterday in regards to the blockade, “6.7 million dollars went through the GTS office in 2009. All we want to know is where did it go? Let’s break down the expenses.”

The matter of Derrick signing a deal with Enbridge just sent the issue over the tipping point and made many more Gitxsan people aware of the problems. While all the media across Canada are proclaiming this is all an Enbridge conflict it is actually something completely different. It is a group of people attempting to remove the corruption from their community and their politics. The BC Court is fighting to avoid having the entire political/corporate corruption system exposed for all to see.

Almost every Indian who has lived on a reserve has first hand experience with this. Those who pander to the elected families, their friends and relatives get the brand new houses and cushy, well paying, jobs. Those who challenge them are ostracised and have to fight to get any of the benefits available under the Indian Act as the band controls the disbursement of funds. They see it because it is small scale.

This is something all citizens of the world need be made aware of. The executive branches of all organizations, government, business, societies including Treaty Societies, are all susceptible to this fraud.

In municipal politics the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) generally manipulates the elected members to vote yes to all matters put in front of them. He or she remains in the position after every election and clearly knows much more about the running of the City and can generally talk circles around the newly elected member.

The same applies to Regional District, Provincial and Federal Politics. The same also applies to international organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank and the International Monetary fund. In these higher levels however, one arriving in such a position has generally already proven how competent they are at saying yes.

Our Federal MP’s and our Provincial MLA’s must vote the way they are told or they get kicked out of the “Party”, the cash reward for saying “Yes” Party.

The world of finance works when people are willing to do or say anything for money. Vote buying is the simplest way to achieve an end. No matter what a government or corporation wishes to do, they can state the board or the elected members approved their decision when in truth, the average man and woman just sold them selves to the highest, or maybe only, bidder.

The issue is compromising integrity for money. It’s all the rage these days.

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