Andrew seeks re-election as Lil’wat Chief 

Former chief negotiator Lyle Leo one of six to challenge him

The Lil'wat Nation will go to the polls to elect a chief and council on March 7, with the current chief seeking election for the eighth time.

Leonard Andrew is seeking his fourth consecutive term as Chief of the Lil'wat First Nation, a position he previously held for a time in the 1980s. He's seeking re-election at a time of great change for his people. A new community centre is being built in Mount Currie, as is a grocery store.

But then, of course, there's the elephant in the room, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, an event for which the Lil'wat Nation is an official partner as part of the Four Host First Nations (FHFN).

Initially Andrew didn't think he would run again, but then he decided that he still has work to do.

"I gave it a great deal of thought of course," he said. "I think there's a lot of issues that still need to be finalized, or completed I guess, so, since we've got this far, I might as well take it through if I can, to the Olympics especially."

When he first came back as chief after a 14-year absence, Andrew thought he'd only be around for four years, two terms. That soon multiplied as he was re-elected again and again.

"I had made a commitment to four years, that was getting to be six years," he said. "If I get back in it'll be eight years type of thing.

"The timeline or timeframe for the business part of it is just treacherous. (There's) a lot of time involved, a lot of meetings to attend to, long days, so I reconsidered it. I think over the last while I just said, okay, I should just go through with it."

If re-elected, Andrew's chief priority will be a change in the governance of the community. The current governance is a model set down by the Indian Act, and Andrew feels it's not in touch with more traditional government.

The new governance could likely be a "two-chief" system to start out with, whereas there'd be one chief for the community and another who looks after business and politics.

Currently, a chief and 12 council members are elected to two-year terms - and according to Andrew, that's not enough time to get things done.

"I think my chief priority really will be change, meaning of course a change in our system," he said. "Not through the Indian Act as it is now. The two-year terms, just, you know, it doesn't meet the requirement anymore."

Andrew won't be seeking the Chief's position unchallenged. Lyle Leo, former chief negotiator for the Lil'wat Nation, is also seeking the chief's seat. He now runs his own consulting firm.

Other candidates for chief include current councillors Bruce Edmonds, Joanne John and Lois Joseph. The other candidates are Chris Wells, a candidate in the last Lil'wat election, as well as Leonard Peters, Sr.

Fifty people have been nominated for the 12 council seats. They include current councillors Ruth Dick, Bruce Edmonds, Chris Irving, Joanne John, Lois Joseph, Martina Pierre, Alphonse Wallace and Patricia Williams.

Marie Abraham, a drug and alcohol counselor with the Southern Stl'atl'imx Health Society, is also seeking a seat on council. She feels that the Lil'wat council needs to get more in touch with traditions such as language and history.

"Whenever anybody needs the name of their ancestors, you know, where they're from and all that, they always come to me," she said. "I think mostly that we need to be our basics, our language, our land and the people. It's pretty basic, but everybody leaves the language out.

"They're dealing with English language and people and somehow it doesn't connect, somehow they can't get the drift right."

Greg Bikadi, president of the Lil'wat Business Corporation, has also been nominated, but he thinks he may drop out because he holds a senior manager position with the Mount Currie Band. He, along with all other candidates, was nominated at a meeting in Mount Currie last Friday.

"Somebody who was in the crowd decided that they wanted to nominate me," he said. "In some cases, there are individuals who do want to run for council and have someone actually nominate them, in my case it was a random thing."

Bikadi, also a director on the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce, said that issues coming up for the Lil'wat Nation include economic development and housing - two constants that have occupied numerous councils.

"Some of the things that we've actually looked at was how to connect economic development to housing and start creating a... unique approach to housing," he said. "We create some form of more affordable housing, I guess, looking at different ways we can do that, and look at it from a business sense as opposed to more of a services kind of sense."

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