New CAO signs on with Lil'wat Nation 

With completion of five-year strategic plan, Lil'wat looks to the future

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - MOVING FORWARD Chiefs Dean Nelson and Leonard Andrew of the Lil'wat Nation. The Nation recently wrapped its 2010-15 Strategic Plan and hired a new CAO, Ernest Armann.
  • File photo
  • MOVING FORWARD Chiefs Dean Nelson and Leonard Andrew of the Lil'wat Nation. The Nation recently wrapped its 2010-15 Strategic Plan and hired a new CAO, Ernest Armann.

Part of what attracted recently hired Lil'wat Nation Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Ernest Armann to his new position was the organization's structure and vision.

"They're entering their third five-year strategic plan, and that's unusual for First Nations these days," Armann said.

"I've kept my eye on Lil'wat Nation and the work they're doing, because I'm a big supporter of self governance."

When he starts on March 7, Armann's first role will be listening and learning, he said, "but I think I can really value-add to the self-governance infrastructure they have now.

"I think I can help them improve systems, I can help improve relationships between leadership and their organization and their community, and those seem to be some of the key priorities that they've expressed to me in my discussions."

Armann brings 25 years of experience with him, including 15 years as band manager for N'quatqua, five years in a governance advisory role for the Lower Stl'atl'imx Tribal Council and most recently as the implementation manager for St'at'imc Government Services.

He steps into the organization during a time of transition, with the Nation having recently wrapped its 2010-2015 Strategic Plan.

The past five years have seen the election of a new government — with Chief Dean Nelson and Cultural Chief Leonard Andrew now at the helm — as well as the introduction of a Custom Election Code and a new Lil'wat Nation Leadership Policy outlining the roles and responsibilities of elected officials.

On the financial side of things, the Nation realized an increase of more than $8 million in its Net Financial Assets over the course of the strategic plan, from a deficit of almost $5 million in 2010 to a surplus of $3.1 million in 2015.

In the next five years, the Nation will be looking at ways of creating its own sources of revenue, "so we have the autonomy to do what we need to do in our community," Nelson said.

Such revenue sources could come from things like Independent Power Projects, like one located at Wedge Creek that the Nation hopes to begin construction on in 2017 or 2018.

The biggest need is for a dedicated firefighting program, Nelson said.

"It's all volunteer-based and people need to work," he said.

"If we had our own source of funding we'd be able to pay people to do that and have that service available, but as it is it's been really sporadic and unsafe in the community, so that kind of thing is where the funds just don't meet the needs."

Moving forward, Nelson said he would like to see more involvement and input from community members.

"My vision for the nation is to increase engagement in all aspects," he said.

"We are planning to have a lot more community events... some cultural, some family days, and just having people come together so they actually can engage and share. I feel like that's something we haven't really had enough of."

Nelson also hopes to build a stronger understanding with neighbouring communities such as Pemberton.

The Village of Pemberton has had presentations from Lil'wat speakers at recent council meetings with the aim of learning more about the Lil'wat culture and the effect of Canada's residential school system.

"I think that's a big part of understanding people, is finding out where they are and where they came from," Nelson said.

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