Blueberry River First Nations family councillor byelection set for January 10

Members of the late Daniel Apsassin Family Group Dane’Zaa-Cree will be voting for a new Family Councillor in the January 10, 2019 By-Election. The candidates are Robin Awaskow and Ronald Joseph Apsassin. The 25-year age gap of the candidates represents different generations each with the same responsibility to ensure the survival for the seventh generation. 

The candidates are on the campaign trail. 

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The Family Councillor position for the Late Dan Apsassin Family Group has been vacant since the resignation of the Family Councillor in October 2018. A decision by a Federal Court Judge is pending in the Blueberry River Custom Election By-Law, 2017 action. 

Blueberry River First Nations is democratic and modern with customary practices and values. However, the Administration is not about mobilizing members around common goals to achieve self-determination for the community. Leadership development for the next generation can only begin when young people have a seat at the Council table.

The candidates for elected office are entering an Administration with many internal and external issues to consider. The lack of transparency and accountability is an issue. A Family Councillor must communicate and actively participate in decision-making at the Council table to solve complex issues involving high levels of political, legal and governance matters. 

Blueberry River First Nations is in a poor situation where the present and future generations will lose their connection to the land. Corporate social responsibility policies, if any, are limited to on-reserve members and the Administration. We must seek past knowledge, Elder teachings and laws for guidance. 

The resource and forestry sector continue to impact Treaty 8 rights, we are not acting as stewards of the land and water and customary law is broken when there is political interference in a family trapline. Social issues include elder bullying, poverty, discrimination, violence against women and addictions. The next generation is encouraged to take a leadership role and restore the health of our community.

Unemployment is high. The BRFN administration office, Band–Owned Companies and subsidiaries cannot employ everyone. However, BRFN must employ as many band members as possible. Today, there is one member employed by the BRFN Administration. The Administration fails to consider the value of Dane’Zaa-Cree knowledge and wisdom by restricting employment to those who are not connected to our values, languages and culture. It is an Administration that places western knowledge over Indigenous knowledge. Nothing that is done without members can be for us.

As an advocate for my family and members, I write not to be negative. There are respected non-Indigenous people who have given their expertise, made lasting contributions and empowered our members. 

Today, some elected officials on Council are employed as contractors. They have two jobs. Council members employed as contractors motivate other contractors to seek elected office to get jobs in the oil and gas and forestry sectors. There is a real and potential conflict of interest. Council is a 24-hours-a-day job that cannot be delegated, there is no time to operate or manage a business in the patch. This is wrong for many reasons.

It will take elders, older people, youth and the next generations to empower our members to promote change. The next generation leaders have energy, a fresh perspective, communication skills and a positive outlook to combat the lack of leadership. We need the next generation leaders of today because it is our tomorrow at stake. 

Will the next generation show us leadership? 

— Linda Chipesia is a former Chief and member of the Blueberry River First Nations

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