Squamish Nation voters support changes to governance 

Preliminary results show support for reducing Squamish Nation council from 16 to 8 members

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK

The members have spoken and it could mean sweeping changes for the way the Squamish Nation governs.

The unofficial results of the band's election reform referendum are in.

Results will become official after being presented to Nation council on Tuesday.

The results were published on the Nation's Squamish Nation Election Commission Facebook page and confirmed for The Squamish Chief by Clarissa Antone, a voting member of the election commission.

"I did the happy dance when the results finally came through," she said. "It means good, positive change. That's what it means. It means council is finally accountable." The voting period ended Dec. 6.

Out of 2,997 eligible voters, 774 ballots were cast. The majority supported all of the proposed changes.

Possibly the most dramatic change proposed involves changing the very makeup of the council.

In answer to the question, “Do you want the size of council to be 16 councillors or eight councillors?" the result was 56 per cent in favour of an eight-person council — 430 voted in favour of eight; 335 voted in favour of a 16-member council.

To the question, "Do you approve the new election rules?" 459 voted yes, while 293 voted no — a 59 per cent approval.

On the question, "Do you want to elect the band manager?" 69 per cent voted in favour, with 532 voting yes and 231 voting no.

To the question, "Do you want to elect the chair of council?" 546 voted yes and 212 voted no, meaning a 71 per cent approval of this change.

Voters also supported a partial ward system — 478 yes votes to 284 no. This will mean one councillor representing the Squamish Valley, one for the North Shore and one elected by members living away from these communities.

Prior to this review of Nation governance, which took two years to come up with these proposed changes, its 1981 rules were in place. These old rules were barebones, said Antone. Basically, anyone who was a member of the Squamish band and of voting age could run and sit on council.

Under the new rules, a council candidate would be 18 years or older and:

*not in bankruptcy proceedings,

*not mentally or physically incapable,

*not convicted of theft, fraud or bribery, sexual assault or convicted of other indictable or impaired driving offences in the previous 10 years.

[Much more information on the proposed rules is available at www.snelectioncommission.com/.]

Antone says she would prefer the new rules implemented retroactively, rather than the next election, which is four years away, as has been proposed by others. But she says it is up to the members when they are implemented.

"I don't want to make that decision," she said.

She fears that some on council won't support the changes because it could impact their positions.

"They might give us a hard time," she said.

But the band has 100 years of custom behind it where votes of the majority are respected, Antone said.

"We are a custom band," she said.

The Squamish Chief asked to speak to a spokesperson for the Nation regarding the results. The Nation granted the request, but asked for the interview to take place after the referendum results are presented to Nation council for approval.

However, the results have been public since Dec. 6.

Antone says she will be waiting and watching.



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