The shíshálh Nation members will see a familiar name on the ballot this February. Current hiwus (Chief) Warren Paull is running for re-election — again.
When Nation members vote on Feb. 18, they will choose between Paull, yalxwemult (Lenora Joe) and Shiloh Joe for their hiwus. Ten candidates are also in the running for four councillor seats.
Paull was elected as hiwus in 2017 and again in 2020. He has also previously served as a councillor.
In an interview with Coast Reporter, Paull said when he started out in 2017, there were many commitments that needed to be followed through, but he also wanted to finish what was started in 1986 — working on the financial administration law and the governance law, and the Nation’s constitution.
“Some of the negative things that may have transpired over time was because we didn't finish that work,” he said. Much of the constitution was “basically cut and paste from the old Indian Act” and the Nation needed time to rework it, but a series of federal, provincial and shíshálh Nation elections came up. It’s taken five and a half years to get the ability for the Nation to amend its own constitution, which came into effect last June. Paull hopes to be able to bring the financial administration to the membership fairly soon. Then they’ll have to discuss the governance law.
“I think that these are all really good topics for debate that will take us long into the night for a lot of different nights. But I think it's work that needs to be done. I want to finish what we started 30 some odd years ago,” Paull said. “If I can get that done, I can finally say I’m finished. I’ve done my part, I’ve contributed what I could and it’s time for younger [people].”
If the financial administration law was done, Paull says he would not be running again. But he looks forward to that work and “If the membership gives me the ability to run again, or to finish that, I’ll be happy. I’ll be done my life’s work.”
While Paull thinks that work can be done in a year or two, COVID put a lot on the backburner this past term. The Nation could not hold family meetings, and had to hit pause on a number of decisions.
Housing is probably the biggest issue Paull is hearing from community members during the election campaign. People are also feeling unsafe in their homes, he added, and there have been issues with theft. To a large degree, it comes down to a lack of individual support that’s needed. The rest is the economy, he said, with inflation and the housing market.
“The Canadian dream is being nipped away at and we’re going to be renters in our own territory. That’s not right,” he said.
Paull expects Our House of Clans, the Nation’s housing project with BC Housing, to be finished in the second quarter of 2023. Planning for that development took his first term, and building began in 2020. Then there’s the subdivision in Selma Park that’s underway, where the Nation is looking at how to densify and include affordable housing. He also has the aging population in mind, and says they’re looking at starting a long-term care facility or assisted living facility.
On Sinku Drive, where more than a dozen homeowners were sent evacuation notices in July 2022, Paull said they’re still looking for the best case scenario and then it will be taken to the membership. While they’re looking at options, Paull said he can’t talk about them quite yet, but they will be addressed this year. Without a CFO, it’s hard to estimate what the cost or budget will look like.
The residents of lower Sinku Drive are still living on those properties. Paull said the call to evacuate was “a bit of an overreaction” to the way information from a geotechnical report made the situation seem “imminent, but in actual fact, it was emergent.” Insurers said the Nation needs to come up with a plan within a certain timeframe. The situation has many layers, Paull said, and council needs to do an analysis and business plan and bring it to the membership.
Another issue top of mind for Paull is health and crime. After the recent overdose death of a Nation member, “People are justifiably concerned,” Paul said. “We’ve got Nation members who are being preyed upon by the drug dealers… We’ve got to deal with it one way or another.”
For Paull, a success of the past term is the removal of fish farms in the Nation’s swiya after decades of advocating to get rid of them. “I’m rather proud of that,” he said.
By now, Paull has been on shíshálh councils on and off since 1982. Nearly 41 years in, Paull notes he’s had the benefit of being an elected and a hereditary chief. The democratic process is one he believes in, and should not be taken for granted. This election has had the highest request for mail ballots, Paull said. He hopes to take the Nation to full electronic voting to make it even easier.
“That's the best thing for democracy is a well informed public. Everybody has to know what they're up against. And if you do that, well, the rest will fall in place,” Paull said.
Paull can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.