After a months-long standoff between the Gitxsan Treaty Society and the Gitxsan Unity Movement, the blockade at the GTS office in Hazelton was removed last Monday.
Several RCMP from surrounding detachments arrived Monday morning to witness and keep the peace as boards were taken down, employees let back in the building and forensic auditors arrived shortly after 9 a.m.
The GUM states the audit was ordered through the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Special Investigations office and was performed by two specialists.
According to GUM member John Olson, the decision to remove the blockade was made after collaboration with the RCMP and meets the need to have a professional audit completed.
“We’re happy to see the auditors here and support them and the RCMP, but we are also still here and we aren’t going anywhere,” Olson said.
“We’ve also agreed to let the staff enter the building to assist the auditors.
“Throughout it all we’ll be here and we will continue to be peaceful and present.”
As for the Gitxsan Treaty Society, they issued a press release last week stating they were the ones who agreed to an audit and they were “happy to see the RCMP was able to remove the blockade without incident, though we paid a six month penalty waiting for them to do so,“ Gwaans (Bev Clifton Percival) said.
“Throughout it all, we’ve also listened as unfounded financial allegations were thrown about by the blockaders.
“They’ve been demanding an audit of the books.
“Therefore, as an act of goodwill, we will be voluntarily submitting to an assessment of our books by independent federal auditors.”
She also stated the GTS submits their books every year adding they have used chartered accountants after a 2006 Simgiigwet that asked for proper “accountability and transparency.”
While things remain peaceful at the GTS office with employees and auditors coming and going, the RCMP monitoring from across the street and the GUM holding their camp off to the side, things still seem quite convoluted to judge by press releases issued by both parties.
The GTS allege that on June 4 the Chiefs agreed there was a “need for a meeting of all Gitxsan to discuss the issues and dispute within the Nation,” Clifton Percival said.
“The meeting time and place is still to be worked out for all parties.”
Olson also said that the GUM remain “open to and extends an invitation to the GTS Gimlitxwit to meet and settle unresolved issues pertaining to transparency and the return of authority and jurisdiction back to its rightful place, the Gitxsan Simgigyet and the Gitxsan Nation.”
While that potential meeting is still to be announced and the GTS doors are open again in Hazelton, Olson reiterated that the GUM isn’t going away and that he and other members will continue to monitor the building and stand up for what the believe in.