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.