Lucinda Phillips is hoping she’s earned enough of the community’s trust over her two years as chief to be re-elected this weekend. Vaughan Gabriel and Fraser Andrew are hopeful that voters are looking for a change.
Phillips, Gabriel and former chief Andrew will be the three individuals on the ballot for chief of the Mount Currie Band when members of the Lil’wat Nation go to the polls on Saturday (March 9). In addition, 33 individuals are in the running for 12 positions on the band council, while members will be presented with two referendum questions regarding Mount Currie’s citizenship and election codes.
Phillips was elected in an extremely tight race for chief in 2011, taking less than one-quarter of all ballots cast and winning by just 12 votes over the nearest runner-up.
But after two years in charge, Phillips said she feels she’s built a good relationship with fellow Lil’wat members that she hopes to see continue.
“I know I only won by 12 or 13 votes so I think it was a big shocker for everybody two years ago. Since then, one of the things I really needed to do within the community was build a rapport, build trust,” she said. “That was one of my goals over the past two years and I feel good that I was able to accomplish that.”
Overall, Phillips said she’s pleased with the work she and the current council have been able to complete over the past term, pointing to initiatives such as joining the First Nations Land Management Regime, moving towards independent band taxation, amending the codes pending ratification on Saturday and more.
But two years is “not enough” to see everything come to fruition, she said.
“I would like to continue some of the projects that I’ve been working on,” said Phillips. “Having our younger generation come up and start learning all of the traditions and cultures is obviously a key.”
Gabriel is among those on the current 12-member council, and he agreed that the group has done great work in the past 24 months. He is wrapping up his second term as a band councillor and said the Lil’wat leadership has done well to stick to the community’s vision for the future.
“We as a whole leadership team have really worked on our strategic plan for 2010 to 2015 and that’s been our guideline for where we sit within the organization. We have a lot of good initiatives (underway) for the community as a whole.”
Gabriel said he thinks voters will cast their ballots with key issues such as improved housing and economic development when voting on Saturday. He was also a candidate for chief in 2011 and received the third-highest total of votes, finishing less than 30 behind Phillips.
“When I was nominated by community members this year, I had to really think about whether I would accept the nomination for chief,” said Gabriel. “But I’m a proud Lil’wat member and I always look forward to working with my community.”
Andrew served as chief from 1989 to 1991, leading the band during the 1990 blockade of the Duffey Lake Road by the Lil’wat Peoples Movement. Both his father and brother have served stints as chief in the past as well.
Andrew said he believes there should be continued focus on understanding the history, traditions and language of the Lil’wat going forward.
“I think it’s time that we gave something back to the younger (generation),” said Andrew.
While noting it as a global issue, Andrew said he also has concerns about the health of Lil’wat members and that looking back to traditional diets — before the arrival of packaged and processed food — to find solutions.
“I think we really need to look at what our ancestors had before all these things were available to our people,” he said, noting that the community has been losing members to illnesses such as cancer that are relatively new in Lil’wat history.
“It’s not just us, it’s all over the world, but there needs to be a major change in how we look at our diet.”
Should the new Election Code be passed on Saturday, the winners of the election will be the last to serve two-year terms at the council table. If ratified, the code would establish four-year terms and a two-chief system — one political chief, one cultural — beginning in 2015.
The Citizenship Code going to referendum has been altered to grant automatic member status for children born to one Lil’wat parent, eliminating the requirement of two Lil’wat parents that is currently in place.
Polls will be open at the Ullus Community Complex on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Results are expected to be available by Sunday (March 10). Visit www.lilwatblog.ca for full candidate lists and voting information.