Lively discussion at Nuxalk chief candidates public forum

Communication, housing, elders, youth, and economic development were all hot topics

Communication, healthy communities, housing, elders, youth, and economic development played dominant roles in a lively question and answer session with three of the four candidates for Nuxalk Chief Councilor on Wednesday, February 28.

Community members gathered in the basement of the Nuxalk Administration office to hear John Schooner, Terry Webber and Samuel Schooner all state their reasons for wanting to lead the Nation after this election. Incumbent Wally Webber was out of town but had Peter Snow read a statement on his behalf.

One of the first questions from the floor was in regards to the proposed gold mine in Nuxalk territory. All three of the candidates stated their opposition to the proposal, citing that it was unceded Nuxalk territory.

“I emailed the CEO myself,” said Terry Webber. “I’ve done my research and I am dead against it.”

Harvey Mack brought forward the idea of an elders group or committee, something all candidates supported.

“An elders committee would be good for the whole community,” said John Schooner. “We need the elders knowledge.”

Ivan Tallio asked the panel if they believed in Nuxalk sovereignty, and, if so, how would they get there?

“We’ve suffered years of annihilation,” said Samuel Schooner. “To be sovereign is to be whole, and it includes economic sovereignty. I don’t think we’re there yet, but we can get there.”

Terry Webber said that he was impressed by the strength of the hereditary leadership, saying that “working with the hereditary chiefs is very powerful.”

“We can thrive with economic development,” he continued. “But it needs to be development that is acceptable to us as Nuxalk people.”

Richard Hall questioned the role of hereditary and elected leadership, asking the candidates whether or not they thought such a governance structure can be created.

“Much of it comes down to communication,” replied John Schooner. “We need to communicate with our whole community and come together as one.”

Samuel Schooner commented that developing plans in conjunction with hereditary leadership, as well as elders and youth, would be a good start.

Housing was also front and centre. While incumbent Wally Webber’s statement detailed plans for more housing, as well as highlighting the tiny homes, it is very clear that housing and land availability still remains a huge challenge for the Nation.

Homes are overcrowded and in short supply, leaving many families with crowded living conditions. There was much discussion focused on the reserve lands that are not being utilized at the present time, as well as securing more land closer to the present sites.

“I believe we are short about three hundred homes at present,” said Samuel Schooner. “We need to find a solution while also securing more land on which to build.”

How to build the homes was also discussed, as the lack of employment in the community created additional barriers for people looking to finance their own homes.

“Where do you start?” asked Curt Edgar. “Right now, nobody has jobs to pay for their mortgages.”

The lack of extended and specialty care for elders was also heavily discussed, with Terry Webber taking a personal note.

“My father spent six years out of the community because we couldn’t provide the care he needed here,” Webber shared. “I want to do the best I can to address this situation so we can keep our elders here.”

A feasibility study was discussed to look at needs for a possible elders care centre, as well as discussions around Memorandums of Understanding with the local hospital to provide care as needed.

“Your elders are very valuable,” stated Lorraine Tallio. “Use them.”

Discussions around creating a healthy community were also brought forward, with many at the meeting saying they would like to see more engagement with the youth and that the Nuxalk Hall be utilized more often for youth to gather.

“I know places where their halls are open 24/7,” commented Curt Edgar. “We have the hall, we should be using it.”

In response, Terry Webber said that he supports more engagement with youth, especially getting them out on the land through programs such as Rediscovery.

The evening concluded with a thank you to all the candidates from an attendee.

“I just to thank you all for running,” she said. “It’s not an easy position, election time can bring out the worst for everyone, so thank you for taking the time.”

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