A contentious meeting of the NWT Fishermen’s Federation (NWTFF) in November has left two men claiming to be president of the organization, and two separate boards of directors.
Both sides stated their cases for leadership in recent open letters.
One letter is from the board of directors headed by Bert Buckley Jr., who was president heading into the Nov. 12 meeting. It states that he still is the legitimate leader.
The other open letter is from a separate board of directors headed by Cameron Beaverbones, who claims to be interim president based on an extraordinary resolution passed at the Nov. 12 meeting.
One open letter – the Buckley letter for sake of clarity – was placed in News/North on Dec. 9. It states that the annual fall meeting on Nov. 12 and decisions made at it have been declared invalid for failure to comply with the bylaws of the NWT Fishermen’s Federation.
For one thing, the Buckley letter said a person elected as secretary-treasurer at the meeting should not have been elected because that individual did not meet the requirements for membership in the organization.
“Any decision made to install the person in a Board of Directors position is invalid,” the letter states.
The Buckley letter also rejects as invalid the meeting’s decision to install the organization’s vice-president as president, arguing the bylaws were not followed for such a move.
“Mr. Buckley did not resign in writing, therefore his position is still valid,” states the open letter. “There is no cause for suspension, expulsion or incapacity.”
The Buckley letter said the issues can be addressed further at the spring meeting of the federation.
The letter also issued a call to the territorial government and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI).
“The GNWT and ITI are asked to respect the duly elected Board of the NWT Fishermen’s Federation and cease their actions to recognize an invalid election,” the letter states.
In response to the Buckley letter, Beaverbones and a separate board of directors released an open letter on Dec. 12. He handed a copy of the letter to The Hub without further comment.
It rejected the description of events in the Buckley letter.
The Beaverbones letter explained that, at the Nov. 12 meeting, three new members were accepted to the federation by a majority of membership, causing a partial walkout from the meeting.
“Three of the five members who left were Board members of the NWTFF,” the Beaverbones letter states. “The meeting continued and was chaired by the Vice President.”
The Beaverbones letter noted that 12 eligible commercial fishermen remained at the meeting and a quorum was maintained.
“The conduct of the majority of the NWTFF Board of Directors was an unacceptable reflection of the Commercial Fishermen and the NWTFF,” the letter states. “An Extraordinary Resolution was passed to remove the Board of Directors. All members were in favour except one who abstained. An interim Board was appointed.”
The Beaverbones letter also claimed that the new member elected secretary-treasurer on Nov. 12 was eligible to serve in that position.
The open letter also issued an invitation to Buckley and others to “participate in solidarity in rebuilding and revitalizing our industry.”
The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment was asked where it stands on the leadership dispute at the federation.
“The issues that have been raised regarding the NWT Fishermen’s Federation are internal and wouldn’t be appropriate for the GNWT to weigh in or comment on,” said Drew Williams, the department’s assistant director of strategic communications.
The department spokesperson declined to comment on the call in the Buckley letter for the GNWT and ITI to “cease their actions to recognize an invalid election.”
Williams did say the department remains committed to moving forward the revitalization strategy for the commercial fishery on Great Slave Lake, including the building of a new plant in Hay River.