Sechelt First Nation will be going to the polls tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 2) for its third by-election in less than two years, as former councillor Ben Pierre and self-described “alternate candidate” Tim Quinn vie for the seat vacated by Keith Julius.
Pierre and Quinn faced off during a candidates’ forum at Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) Hall on Jan. 24, fielding questions from a small audience on a range of topics including child custody issues, SIB’s powers under self-government, and the feasibility of using harvested timber for the Band’s housing program.
Asked what change they could expect to make with only one year left in the current term, both candidates said they would bring needed maturity and experience to a relatively young council.
“I think it’s my duty,” Quinn said, citing his educational background. “I’m becoming an elder now, I’m in my early 50s. I see these young people who run for councillor positions and I take my hat off to them, except that I feel bad that they don’t have the experience to bring to the table. I feel I have the experience and knowledge and connections to help the Band right now, and the people.”
Pierre said he would apply the knowledge and understanding he gained during his nine years on council.
“People do know me from the past,” he said. “I’m aggressive. I’m assertive. I don’t take no nonsense from anybody. I dig in my feet for what I believe is right and that’s what I want to bring to the administration, because I don’t see the wheels of our bureaucracy turning. I think they’re stuck right now.”
Asked if the Band should pay compensation to the elders, Quinn answered in the affirmative: “Yeah, I think the elders should be looked after, just like they looked after us when we were young.”
Pierre also praised the elders: “God bless all the elders and all the information they provided to us over the years,” he said, but was less definite about compensating them. “If that was to ever occur, I would assume it would have to go to a Band referendum, because you’re expending Band resources,” he said.
When Quinn said he delivers fish and game to the elders, whether they can pay for it or not, the candidates were asked if they would be in favour of the Band sending out hunters and selling the fresh meat to community members at an affordable price.
“I love that idea,” Quinn said. “It’s just a matter of taking back control of our land.”
Pierre said the issue goes deeper, into displacement: “Displacement is a huge thing in our community, because traditionally everybody had a role in the community, whether you were the chief, the carver, the fisherman, the hunter.”
The Band, he said, could support hunters in such an arrangement and could also provide similar support to carvers, with a portion of sales coming back to the community.
“That’s a really good idea,” Pierre said. “It should be looked at and implemented.”
The candidates gave rapid-fire answers to meet the forum’s one-minute time limit, Pierre quipping at one point that “you have to be Speedy Gonzales” to complete a response, and were allotted five-minute closing statements before the forum ended.
Voting for the Feb. 2 by-election will take place in the elders’ boardroom of the SIB health and social development building. Polls open at 9 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
The current three-year council term ends in March 2014. Two other by-elections were held during the term after sitting councillors resigned due to health issues. Julius, who also sat as SIB director on the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board, resigned from council last month to return full-time to private industry.
Chief Garry Feschuk now sits as SCRD director for Sechelt Nation.