Elmer Derrick with Enbridge Executive Vice-President Janet Holder this past friday (photo: CNW Group/Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs)

Embattled Gitxsan Treaty Rep, Enbridge Deal-Maker Elmer Derrick Has Long Ties to BC Liberals


The heated debate playing out in the BC media over the past few days regarding the now-disputed deal announced this past Friday between Enbridge and the Gitxsan First Nation warrants a closer examination of the lone Gitxsan man behind the deal. Just who is Elmer Derrick – besides a hereditary chief and lead treaty negotiator for the Gitxsan? It turns out Mr. Derrick also has a decade-long history as a key political appointee of the BC Liberal Party.

Mr. Derrick was among the first political appointees of Gordon Campbell (see Order in Council 847) when the former premier replaced most of the BC Hydro Board of Directors with his own appointees soon after coming to power in 2001. Derrick was among that first batch of board appointments and retained his position at least until March 2008, the last time he is listed as a director in the annual report of the crown corporation.

Mr. Derrick began his foray into politics under the NDP’s tenure, when he was appointed in 1995 to the board of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (O.I.C. 1331). Six years later he was becoming a go-to appointee for Campbell. In 2002, Derrick was appointed to the First Peoples’ Advisory Committee (O.I.C. 385) to the Campbell Government as well. In his biography on the Northwest Tribal Treaties Association’s website, Derrick is also listed as a board member of Powerex – BC’s electricity trading crown corporation – and “a volunteer community member of the National Committee on Sustainable Development, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for three successive reports to the Parliament of Canada.”

Mr. Derrick involved himself in the recent BC Liberal leadership debate earlier this year – throwing his support behind losing candidate George Abbott, according to a Black Press story which is no longer posted on the company’s websites but was re-posted on a Vancouver Island realtor’s blog, where it remains at the time of publication of this story. The story notes, “Also joining Abbott at the announcement were Klahoose First Nation Chief Ken Brown, Gitsxan Chief Elmer Derrick…” (emphasis added).

Mr. Derrick has also acted as co-chair of the Northwest Power Line Coalition, an industry-driven group designed to support the building of the Northwest Transmission Corridor – an initiative championed by both the provincial Liberal and federal Conservative governments – to open up mining and hydro projects in Northwest BC. Among a group of over 50 mining and industrial equipment companies, engineering firms and trade organizations are two First Nations entities, listed as, “Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs and Tahltan Development Corporation.” A Marketwire story form January 2010 quotes Mr. Derrick: “‘We look forward to working with and supporting [BC Transmission Corporation] in this process,’ added Coalition Co-Chair Elmer Derrick, Hereditary Gitxsan Chief. ‘We are confident that the needs, concerns and questions of those impacted by this power line will be met through the environmental assessment.'”
Mr. Derrick has come under fire by members of his own Gitxsan nation for brokering a deal with Enbridge in support of the company’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. Several hereditary chiefs from the community claimed in a press release this past Friday that Mr. Derrick had no authority to sign an economic benefit agreement with Enbridge and are now seeking to reverse that move.


About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

13 thoughts on “Embattled Gitxsan Treaty Rep, Enbridge Deal-Maker Elmer Derrick Has Long Ties to BC Liberals

  1. Excellent comments with interesting topics and very useful resources. Thanks for sharing.
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  2. Elmer Derrick just emerged from hiding after 5 days – and here’s what he has to say about the recent controversy of his own making…NOTHING! http://www.vancouversun.com/Gitxsan+Nation+supports+Enbridge+pipeline/5827114/story.html Nothing about being run out of town, or fired, or how the decision was reached to support the Enbridge deal. Nothing about a vote – or how that worked or who was involved. This missive only raises more questions than it answers.

  3. Read the last paragraph again and ask yourself this question;

    Why is Enbridge seeking a signature of an Indian Hereditary Chief who is not responsible for, nor does he oversee the land the pipeline will cross?

    What is missing from this equation?

    Failing any competent revelation to the question posed, the only thing I can think of is this was intentionally done to become a “wedge issue “amongst First Nations Peoples in a rather ill-conceived attempt to divide and conquer.

  4. The pipeline doesn’t even cross Gitxsan Territory. Instead, Gitxsan workers will be working on their neighbour’s (Wet’suwet’en) Territory. The only requirement being that Gitxsan workers sign a waiver of liability so that Enbridge will not be held liable for any acts of war. Grand Chief Elmer Derrick will be on the front lines on other First Nations’ lands, providing leadership for the scabs. Coming next from the Gitxsan Treaty Office: the Skeena River will be dammed for Hydro power.

  5. Ahhhh…..

    Typical Canadian corrupt politics at play. Canada has become a land of reneged deals, broken contracts, and where the law is only for the wealthy elites.

    In Canada, the old adage; “Might is Right” has become the golden rule.

    We live in the age of the great ponzi scheme, where the likes of “Gordon the liar” and “Herr” Harper are at the top of the pyramid, gaining wealth and power on the backs of the poor and disadvantaged.

    It is time that good men and women rise up and repudiate the corrupt government/corporate politics that has infected this once great nation and expunge those who profit from what is ours to share.

    I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.

    H. L. Mencken

  6. Some thoughts regarding Mr. Derrick;

    First of all my understanding is that he does not reside on the Gitxsan reserve lands.

    Secondly I believe that because the pipeline does not travel through any of the Gitxsan lands his signature on the pipeline proposal document would be worthless and a moot point. Not sure really…..

    In other words, why is his signature being sought out if the pipeline does not travel through lands that he is a hereditary chief to?? This question keeps bothering me about this….

    As one of some sixty or more hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan, I believe his actions on this file and the fact that he went ahead and signed this agreement against the majority wishes of some six thousand or more Gitxsan tribal members, he has demonstrated enough of an error in judgment for the remaining chiefs to initiate a process to remove his authority as a hereditary chief, AND any other responsibilities he may have with this particular band.

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