A Supreme Court judge presiding over a lawsuit between the Gitxsan Treaty Society (GTS) and a group of plaintiffs referred to as Spookw has temporarily paused the proceedings before he’ll continue to hear arguments from the GTS on dismissing the lawsuit entirely.
According to GTS Executive Director Gordon Sebastian the judge had a concern with the way the GTS board of directors is appointed.
“The judge pointed out his concern that the hereditary chiefs are appointing the directors,” said Sebastian. He said the judge was concerned that that fact means they don’t meet the provision of B.C.’s Society Act.
Section 24 of the Society Act states that only members of a society can appoint its directors.
According to Sebastian, the judge wants to hear from hereditary chiefs an explanation on how hereditary chiefs can appoint the directors.
Sebastian explained that in 1994 the BC Treaty Commission did not recognize the Hereditary Chiefs as a legal entity. The negotiating team in 1994 drafted a constitution which recognized that the Hereditary Chiefs would be appointing the directors.
However according to Norman Stephens, himself a Hereditary Chief, this latest development in the courts means that the judge thinks the GTS is an invalid and, therefore, cannot continue to exist.
Stephens and other opponents of the GTS say that the GTS itself will have to ask the court to allow them to correct their bylaws (Courts can make that order, under section 85 of the Society Act).
However opponents of the GTS, speaking through a press release issued from the Gitksan Government Commission, say that this breach of the Society Act is serious enough that it cannot be fixed and the GTS should not be allowed to be re-established.
A resolution to this matter may not come until mid-February. The lawsuit had been expected to go to trial in March.