Lil’wat Nation goes to the polls 

Referendum on Sea to Sky highway upgrades will also be held

Members of the Lil’wat First Nation go to the polls this weekend to elect a new Mount Currie Band council and answer a referendum question on the upgrades to the Sea to Sky Highway, past and present.

The referendum question will ask band members whether they accept or reject an agreement drawn up between the Mount Currie Band and the provincial government.

The agreement outlines how the Lil’wat Nation’s interests will be dealt with in relation to highway upgrades.

Chief Leonard Andrew, who has been acclaimed as chief for a second term, believes he has reached a fair agreement with the provincial government. He now wants the support of the 1,400 or so Mount Currie First Nations people before he goes any further.

"I hope it comes out a yes," said Andrew of the referendum.

"This is the best agreement we can get for now without going to court."

He also sees this referendum as a chance for the First Nation to have a say on Mount Currie’s support for the 2010 Olympic Games.

"The highway itself is tied closely to the Olympics and that is what I told the people this week," he said.

Assistant deputy transportation minister Frank Blasetti said even if the Lil’wat reject the agreement the upgrades will continue as both parties seek a deal.

"We will go back to the negotiating table," he said. "We believe, and I think the First Nations believe, that we have developed a good working relationship and we believe we will reach a successful agreement that will be a benefit to ourselves as well as the First Nations. We are quite confident of that."

The agreement looks at not only what the Lil’wat will receive in return for the use of their traditional land for the highway and the upgrades, but also how the government can help build economic success for the Lil’wat.

The current agreement would offer the Lil’wat Nation 600 acres of fee simple land and an option to buy another 600 acres at market value. Discussions are still under way on the location of the land.

The government also wants to provide employment and economic opportunities to First Nation contractors as the work on the highway goes ahead.

"The agreement is more comprehensive that just an agreement on the highway," said Blasetti.

"It provides for some certainty with regard to solving some past issues with regard to the highway and it is also part of a commitment to build capacity of the First Nations to participate in economic development opportunity in the corridor."

The election and referendum will be held between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 12. The polling station will be at the gymnasium on IR #10. In the last election, two years ago, 60 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.

This time 28 candidates are running for the 12 positions on band council. They are Rosemary Dan, *Ruth Dick, Bruce Edmonds, Justin Green, *Chris Irving, Frankie Jim, Jonathan Joe, *Joanne John, *Lois Joseph, Alvina Louis, Felicite Nelson, Loretta Pascal, *Lucy Phillips, *Martina Pierre, *Ray Pierre, *Priscilla Ritchie, Rosalin Sam, Tara Smith, Alphonse Wallace, Myrna Wallace, *Shirley Wallace, Tammy Wallace, Gloria Wallace, *Carolyn Ward, *Morgan Wells, Samantha Wells, Patricia Williams and  *Connie Wilson. (*Denotes incumbent).

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