When members of the Lil’wat Nation go to the polls in March, they’ll have dozens of candidates to choose from, as well as two new band codes to vote on.
Lucinda Phillips will be seeking re-election against six other challengers for the chieftainship, and the winner would be the band’s last sole chief serving a two-year term if the community approves the new Lil’wat Nation Election Code, one of two policy documents going to referendum during the March 9 vote.
The Lil’wat Nation Citizenship Code has also been amended to grant band citizenship status to children of one member parent, and will go before the community for ratification.
The new election code would see Mount Currie move to a two-chief system — one political chief and one cultural chief, plus 11 members of band council — with all elected officials serving four-year terms instead of the current two. If passed, the new structure would take effect following elections in 2015.
Phillips said community members have continually expressed a desire to elect two chiefs. She said it’s a move that makes sense considering the size of the Lil’wat population, and one that would allow for leadership presence in the community on a more regular basis.
“Being the only chief, it is pretty hard to be in two places at once,” Phillips said Tuesday (Jan. 29). “I have so many meetings and activities going on in the city, so having somebody at home that I could always fall back to and work with would be a huge advantage.
“Also, what I would like to see in the cultural chief is somebody who can assist us in maintaining our language, culture and traditions by being a part of learning them, but also by teaching them. It’s a great opportunity and I think it’s only going to enhance the working relationship within council … moving forward.”
For the citizenship code, Phillips said the new rules fix a “flaw” in the current code, which stipulates that only children born to two Lil’wat members are automatically granted band citizenship. The double-parent rule that currently exists has required many children of one Lil’wat parent to be voted in as members on an annual or bi-annual basis — an “onerous” process, said Phillips, and one that band officials have been working to change for about a decade.
“We’ve been working on this, unfortunately, for 10 years,” she said. “It always just got pushed to the side of the table, but it’s been an ongoing issue for community members.”
Phillips said she is hopeful that community members will support the two new codes when voters cast their ballots.
“The proposed changes have been developed by Lil’wat and for Lil’wat to take control over our membership and election rules,” she said. “These changes take us out of the control of the Indian Act for us to determine our own future as the Lil’wat people.”
Phillips encouraged all Lil’wat members to become informed about the changes going to referendum. The band is hosting open houses at Mount Currie’s Ullus Community Complex on Feb. 5 and Feb. 26, as well as in Vancouver on Feb. 6 and Feb. 27 at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre.
Meanwhile, the list of nominees for chief and council was released Monday (Jan. 28), with seven candidates vying for chief and 46 for council. Nominees had until Wednesday (Jan. 30) to withdraw from the ballot.
Fraser Andrew, Vaughan Gabriel, Christopher Irving, Joanne John, Dean Nelson and James Williams are the six individuals up against incumbent Phillips for the chieftainship.
As she nears the end of her first two years as chief, Phillips said she hopes community members agree that she’s had a successful first term.
“I enjoy the position much more than I thought I would,” she said. “I feel that I’ve built a rapport with community members, and at our council table we’ve done so much in the last two years.”
The following individuals, in alphabetical order, are listed as nominees for the March 9 elections in Mount Currie (*-denotes incumbent):
Lucinda Phillips - *
Joshua Ryan Anderson - *
Robert Ryan Andrew
Ernest Mark Gabriel
Vaughan Gabriel - *
Christopher Irving - *
C. Jay Joe
Eva Maria Joe
Luke Johnny - *
Lois (Mamaya) Joseph - *
Maxine Joseph-Bruce - *
Dean Nelson - *
Nadine Pascal - *
Tara Smith - *
Rosemary Stager - *
Alphonse (Eyes) Wallace
Carl Wallace - *
Jonathan (Jaboo) Wallace