A New Voice for BC First Nations
September 2nd 2009
For immediate release
VANCOUVER – With a message of building on success and partnership Jody Wilson Raybould recently announced she is seeking the office of Regional Chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN).Nominations closed yesterday for the BCAFN Regional Chief, a position that became vacant when Shawn ‘A-in-chut’ Atleo became the Assembly of First Nations’ National Chief earlier this summer.
In announcing her candidacy, Wilson Raybould says she is convinced a new generation of First Nations’ citizens has the power to transform Canadian society. “We live in exciting times,” says Wilson Raybould. “This is a time of unprecedented opportunity for First Nations’ communities and we must take advantage of it.”
She says that opportunity means First Nations have to be active participants in every aspect of BC today. “We intend – no, we demand — to be active participants in every aspect of contemporary life. Gone, long-gone, are the days when we were the forgotten people at the end of a gravel road.”
Candidate Jody Wilson Raybould says First Nations’ people are entering the economic and social mainstream in unprecedented numbers. First Nations’ people, Jody Wilson Raybould argues, are working side-by-side with non-Aboriginal people to develop new economic opportunities throughout the province, both on and off-reserve. “Our people are building a renewed sense of pride and purpose,” she says, “that is strengthening our diverse First Nations’ cultures in the process.”
Wilson Raybould, 38, has a plan for the BCAFN that will empower, connect and support First Nations by building on success. Her campaign platform has four priorities:
1) strong and appropriate governance,
2) fair land and resource settlements
3) education, and
4) individual health.
“Many First Nations’ communities are experiencing a level of success not seen before.. .and this is a result of the past and present leadership in our communities,” she says. “We need to celebrate those successes, share them and build on them so no First Nation is left out or behind.”
Wilson Raybould, whose traditional name is Puglaas, (meaning ‘woman born to noble people’) sees the four critical areas of her platform as the way to advance Aboriginal title and rights on the ground. She said, “We need First Nations that have strong and culturally appropriate governance structures to harness opportunities. With appropriate governance comes the foundation for sustainable economic development and prosperity. We need fair access to land and resources to fuel our economies and support our traditional practices. We need well educated and skilled citizens to run our governments and to participate in our economies. Finally, we need healthy individuals to enjoy, participate and take full advantage of these opportunities.”
“As the Regional Chief, I want to be able to work with our communities and understand where they are at in terms of these four objectives,” she says as each First Nation develops its own critical path towards the implementation of their Aboriginal title and rights.”
Wilson Raybould lives on her home reserve of Cape Mudge, Quadra Island. Raised traditionally, with a degree in political science and history and a lawyer by profession, she was a provincial Crown prosecutor for two years in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Since 2003 she has been an elected commissioner to the BC Treaty Commission and is an elected Councillor for the We Wai Kai First Nation/Cape Mudge. She is also an active volunteer board member for the Minerva Foundation for BC Women and for the National Centre for First Nations Governance and is an advisor for the Nuyumbalees Cultural Centre.
“Her varied and unique background makes her the ideal candidate for our times,” said Lydia Hwitsum, Chief of Cowichan Tribes. “I was very pleased to nominate Jody. She will be great for BC.”
And while stressing new opportunity, Wilson Raybould does not back away from the ugly part of history: The racism, injustice and economic segregation she believes have created a societal underclass. But she weaves in a sense of hope that society is moving forward, something that changes the timbre of the debate.
“Great change is happening in First Nations communities as they move out from under Indian Act governance and control,” Wilson Raybould said. “We should not be afraid of this change. There are many opportunities to strengthen our communities and preserve our culture.” For Wilson Raybould, the measures of success is when the standard of living for our citizens improves and when we have practicing and thriving cultures.
Chief Ralph Dick of the We VVai Kai First Nation, one of five Chiefs to nominate Wilson Raybould, commented “Jody is a well respected citizen of our community…and has the overwhelming support of our people.” He continued, “The next few years will be very important for BC First Nations as we finally begin to benefit from our aboriginal title and rights through revenue sharing with the province and other means as well as implementing our inherent right to self determination.”
Chief Robert Louie of Westbank First Nation who also nominated Wilson Raybould added, “Jody has the ability to unite our First Nations as we begin to understand and take advantage of the opportunities that lie before us. Recently she showed great leadership in her work with the ‘Common Table’ of 63 First Nations all working together to advance our aboriginal title and rights issues. She represents a breath of fresh air and a new optimism for change.”
Although there are many challenges, Wilson Raybould is upbeat about the prospects for First Nations’ communities. “We have a bright future.”
Voting for the position of BC regional chief will take place October 1st at the Chief Joe Mathias Centre in North Vancouver. All 203 First Nations’ Chiefs in BC are eligible to vote.
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO REQUEST AN INTERVIEW:
Anna Celesta, Campaign coordinator