Garry Feschuk will not be seeking a third consecutive term as chief when shíshálh (Sechelt) First Nation voters go to the polls later this month - but the veteran chief is among 14 candidates running for a seat on council.
It's the same decision Feschuk made in 2005, when he stepped down as chief after 12 years and served one term as councillor. He also served on council when first elected in 1990.
"To me it's not a big deal," Feschuk said about his decision. "I'm running for council, which is still an important position in our organization."
As a council member, he said, "there's a number of issues that I'd like to focus on, a lot of initiatives. It's an honour and a privilege to serve the community, only I want to do it in a different role. You don't have to be everywhere as a council member."
B.C. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said he was "a bit surprised" that Feschuk was not running again for chief.
"Without question, Chief Feschuk has made enormous contributions to our struggle to provide justice for a whole variety of interests," Phillip said.
While championing the day-scholar compensation issue with his Kamloops Indian Band counterpart, "Chief Feschuk has also contributed to larger issues of unresolved aboriginal title and rights here in the province of British Columbia," he said. "Chief Feschuk has proven himself to be a very astute negotiator and leader who worked to bring issues to both levels of government. He has proven to be a very capable leader in his time."
Phillip called shíshálh a "flagship" B.C. First Nation, in terms of governance and economic development, and said there was "a very definite synergy with respect to the number of very gifted leaders" who have emerged from the community.
With Feschuk out of the race, three candidates were nominated for chief on Jan. 20: Calvin Craigan, who served as chief from 1974-83, former councillor Warren Paull, and Kevin August.
"We'll always have leaders," Feschuk said. "Whoever becomes the next chief, I'll help them reach the goals they try to achieve, too. Even if I don't get elected, I'll support council as a member of the community."
Four seats are up for grabs on council, and besides Feschuk, three incumbent councillors are also running: Ashley Joe, Christopher August and Ben Pierre. Incumbent Jordan Louie decided not to run, after serving two terms.
Other candidates running for council include current school trustee Lori Dixon and former councillors Rochelle Baptiste and Carol Teresa Louie. Rounding out the slate are: Stuart Craigan, Stephen Feschuk, Darrel Randy Joe, Andrew Glen Johnson, Jr., Anthony Johnny Paul, Alvina Elaine Paul, and Kaylon Douglas Quinn.
The election is Feb. 22. Voting will take place from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Elders boardroom of the social development offices, 5559 Sunshine Coast Highway. An advance poll is set for Feb. 16 from 2 to 6 p.m.
The three-year term starts April 1 and ends on March 31, 2017.
A referendum will also be held in early March to obtain approval for the shíshálh to invest in the Narrows Inlet Hydro Project.
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