Leo: ‘I’m not dropping out’ 

Lyle Leo is standing defiant.

The embattled former chief negotiator for the Mount Currie Band of the Lil'wat Nation wants to lead his people through to the Olympics and beyond as their chief. But in the meantime a lawsuit has gotten in the way. It alleges he took over half a million dollars in "secret profits" from developers.

Still, he stands firm in the face of legal action.

"I'm not going to step down," he said Wednesday. "The action against me is a result of me coming forward and putting to the community that I have an interest in running for the chief councillor, and I continue to do so."

The lawsuit comes at the end of almost two decades in which Leo claims he's tried to jump-start economic opportunities for the band.

Obtaining a diploma in forestry and renewable resources from BCIT in 1992, he then returned to Mount Currie with a view to doing forest management for the First Nation. In 1994 the band first hired him on as manager of its health and social development department. About two years later he moved to open a sustainable forestry department for the band so that the Lil'wat could do forest-related work.

Around that same time, Leo was first elected to the Mount Currie band council and started working with the band to pursue a "diversified economy."

One of the biggest opportunities in his time came in 1998, when Vancouver and Whistler won the right to present Canada's bid for the 2010 Winter Games.

Leo said he played a big part in engaging the bid corporation. He represented the Lil'wat Nation on its board of directors and helped negotiate the Shared Legacies Agreement for both the Squamish and Lil'wat Nations.

The agreement with the province and the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee would see 300 acres of land transferred to the First Nations for economic development opportunities. It would also see the province pay $3 million towards construction of the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre in Whistler.

Leo's time on council came to an end in 2003. He then wanted to carry on with opportunities he developed as a councillor, taking on the job of chief negotiator until 2008.

He's now running for chief because "prominent families" within the community approached him to run.

"I bring the all-around experience and balance from my previous 13 years working for the nation and have proven deliverables," he said. "I've delivered the needs for the community, including employment opportunities."

When it comes to the lawsuit, Leo claims he never had a chance to address the allegations until the legal action came forward. The action itself, he claims, is the work of two people in senior administrative positions with the band and a councillor, none of whom he would identify.

Leo wouldn't comment on the allegations, but if elected he said he won't stop the court action. And if it comes time for it, he said he's willing to forgive those who've brought the action against him.

"In our culture, time heals itself is our approach," he said. "We will unconditionally forgive those who have meant us harm."

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