Community engagement, leadership cited as TIB goes to polls

'We still need the input of the community members and that's what I see sometimes as lacking'

Mike Youds / Kamloops Daily News
November 8, 2012 01:00 AM

Marie Baptiste

Taxation, economic development, education, infrastructure, employment - issues common to all governments - are among local priorities as Tk'emlups band members vote for chief and council on Saturday.

There are issues specific to the band as well, including the return of Douglas reserve lands removed from the band in 1862, aboriginal rights and title, and the struggle to achieve redress for residential-school day scholars.

Marie Baptiste again challenges incumbent Shane Gottfriedson for chief, while 15 other candidates are competing for seven seats on council.

Gottfriedson seeks a fourth term as chief. Baptiste, a two-term band councillor in the 1980s with a well-rounded record of community service, ran unsuccessfully for chief in 2009.

Baptiste faces an uphill battle to gain enough support to defeat the incumbent, but she's had an encouraging show of support.

"A lot of members have said they wanted to see some change happening within the band," she said. "We still need the input of the community members and that's what I see sometimes as lacking."

Band meetings often don't attract the minimum 30 band members required to form a quorum, she noted. With greater community-wide engagement, she feels more people will attend the meetings. To achieve this, she would re-energize two key committees.

"The governance and membership committees haven't met since the last election and there are issues that have to be dealt with in order for us to sustain membership."

Though band membership has grown to 1,200 from 300 in the past 40 years, some candidates have expressed concern about a loss of members over time through marriage and changing status rules in The Indian Act.

Baptiste also wants to see more social housing, particularly for families or those on low incomes. For singles or couples, smaller units, apartment or condos should be an option.

Additional revenue could be obtained through a share of the corporate tax paid by businesses on reserve land. She sees business opportunities for the band in the commercial hub developing off the Yellowhead Highway. The band itself could become a franchisee rather than waiting for retail chains to commit.

"I think if we had a Walmart on the reserve, we'd probably have a lot more people through the door."

Gottfriedson is proud of his record and wants to continue to lead the TIB, which he considers a leader among B.C.'s First Nations.

"We're at a critical stage where the foundation is built solidly and we need to look at strategic thinking," he said.

"I think, after 200 years, you're really looking forward to sitting down and developing strategies and looking at a number of interests.

"I'm probably one of the most accessible chiefs in B.C. and really pride myself on being compassionate."

Band council holds equal importance, he added.

"Teamwork is the answer to anything. I think I provide that leadership. It's really about community."

The candidate field is a mix of experienced councillors (incumbents Evelyn Camille, George Casimir, Roseanne Casimir, Fred Seymour, Dolan Paul and Jeannette Jules), former councillors (James Casimir, Richard Jules) and younger entries (Amanda Bigsorrelhorse, Colleen Mosterd-McLean and Katy Gottfriedson). Also in the running: Dave Manuel, Ed Jensen, Robert Jules and Jimmy Thomas.

Camille, 73, is running for her fourth term and underwent a complete physical before running again. Always willing to tackle the least desired portfolio, she remains committed as an advocate for day scholars as well as for apprehended children, their parents and grandparents.

Richard Jules, 62, is back, ready to serve, after surviving kidney disease and a quadruple bypass.

"I'm all engineered," he quipped. "I'm bionic."

He, too, wants to see tax revenue sharing, possibly through the PST.

"I see the leakages happening; it all leaves the band," he said.

James Casimir, 69, was a councillor in the early '90s before a car accident sidelined him a dozen years ago.

"I'm rebuilding my past," he said. He wants to see more programming for youth and elders, successful negotiation of the Douglas claim and repatriation of the Harper Ranch as part of the homeland.

Also in the running: George Casimir and Jeannette Jules (incumbents); Dave Manuel, Ed Jensen, Robert Jules and Jimmy Thomas. Among incumbents, only Connie Leonard is not seeking re-election. Alice McCaleb, who was initially running for chief, dropped out of the contest.

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