peters problems 

It’s not just the federal and provincial governments which have to renew their mandate toward treaty negotiations, there’s a power struggle going on within the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua. The In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua council has withheld funding from the In-SHUCK-ch Services Society, the body which administers the treaty negotiation task force. As a result the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua offices in Pemberton and Deroche have been closed, all staff working on treaty negotiations have been laid off and treaty work has halted. An Oct. 26 memo from Randel Paul-Charlie, president of In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua Treaty Resources Inc., to the ISS board of directors states that "... following a thorough review of available funds to come and the much neglected needs of our four In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua communities in the present BCTC process to consult their individual membership and one another to arrive at a well informed and intelligent negotiation position, we are only able to transfer a further $48,000, in the month of November 1999 to the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua Services Society." Paul-Charlie also writes that the money is intended for fulfilling any outstanding obligations the board may have to employees and/or contractors and that no further funding will be available for the remainder of the 1999-2000 fiscal year. The decision to withhold funds has frustrated In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua chief negotiator Gerard Peters, but it was the way it was done — with no discussion except within council — that he has found particularly upsetting. "I’ve not had an opportunity to engage council in dialogue for a couple of years," Peters said last week. Yet he maintains council members have copies of every document he has ever received in regard to treaty negotiations. "The negotiation process is outpacing the ability of the leadership to be comfortable with it," Peters said. "They have difficulty assimilating information and projecting themselves as individuals in the future." The result is an internal power struggle. INTRI says it has no contractual commitment to ISS and has developed an alternate treaty work plan which would include appointing Paul-Charlie and Darla Thevarge as the official contact persons and signatories on treaty negotiations. However, Peters’ holds that authority and it can’t be usurped simply with a declaration. Former staff from ISS have started legal action against INTRI and council. At the heart of the matter is a belief among some members of the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua council that too much time and money are being spent on treaty negotiations when their own communities are being neglected. As well, Peters says he’s perceived by some as too ready to sign "the deal." "That’s not true. I’m limited by the technical nature of my job," he says. "I’m doing only what I’m mandated to do." He adds that initialing chapters is a long way from signing a final agreement. In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua elders have asked the BC Treaty Commission to mediate in the internal dispute. Last weekend the Samahquam, who along with the Douglas and Skatin bands make up the In-SHUCK-ch, passed a motion to direct INTRI, the treaty task team and the In-SHUCK-ch N’Quat’qua council to assemble Dec. 22 in Pemberton and resolve the impasse and get back to treaty negotiations. The Samahquam also decided to establish a committee to work on a constitution. Under the current system First Nations councils are responsible to the Ministry of Indian Affairs rather than directly to their own people. Peters is optimistic the internal dispute will be resolved. "I’m not going to lose sight of the ball just because it’s gone out of bounds," he says. "I can see (INTRI member’s point) and I think we can deal with it and accommodate it — but we need an opportunity to sit down. The community needs a sense of ownership that they don’t have now." And when the internal issues have been discussed and addressed he vows to engage the public and neighbouring communities in the treaty process again.

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