Dec 7/98: Elder-Nisga'a deal = "Extinguishment"



Victoria Times Colonist
December 7, 1998
Louise Dickson

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

Chief Joseph Gosnell told radio listeners across Canada Sunday he opposes a referendum on the Nisga'a treaty. Gosnell, Nisga'a tribal council president, was one of four panellists on CBC's 'Cross Country Checkup', hosted by Rex Murphy at the Herald Street Centre for the Arts. And if Gosnell has his way, Sunday's broadcast is the closest those who oppose the treaty will get to making their views count. Some believe the minority should have their rights dealt with by the majority, said Gosnell. "Our view is it shouldn't."

Globe and Mail columnist Gordon Gibson, who sat on the panel with Gosnell, Nisga'a matriarch Mercy Thomas and former chief federal negotiator Tom Molloy, said he believes a referendum is a necessary part of the political process. Although Gibson deplored the "down and dirty poor-ass politics" that have made the treaty a partisan issue, he observed that 60 per cent of British Columbians are in favour of a referendum. And referendums, said Gibson, such as the vote on the Charlottetown accord, have become a defining Canadian tradition. But audience member Mark Tyrell launched a personal tirade against Gibson, telling him he "had a hell of a nerve" to voice those opinions. "The majority is not always right. Minority rights are not protected by a bigoted majority."

Mercy Thomas, who was extremely critical of most issues concerning the treaty, did not oppose Gosnell on the referendum. "I don't agree with the referendum," said Thomas. "I feel the Nisga'a should vote on it themselves." During the two hour show, which attracted callers from Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, moderator Murphy continued to ask the question: What do you think of the Nisga'a treaty. Will it be the pattern for future agreements in BC and in Canada as a whole? John Schafer [sic], a Victoria caller, said it saddened him. "It reduces a sovereign nation to the status of a municipality," said Schafer [sic]. Thomas agreed, "No matter how you look at it, it still means extinguishment."

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