Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 17 - Evidence
VANCOUVER, Friday, October 2, 2009
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:07 a.m. to study the federal government's constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples and on other matters generally relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (topic: issues pertaining to Indian Act elections).
Senator Larry W. Campbell (Acting Chair) in the chair.
The Acting Chair: Good morning. On behalf of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, I would like to welcome you to the Vancouver hearings. My name is Senator Larry Campbell, and I am the acting Chair of the committee, as the permanent Chair, Senator Gerry St. Germaine, is unable to be present. With me is my colleague, Senator Nancy Greene Raine. Both Senator Raine and I are proud to represent the Province of British Columbia, and it is really nice to be back in our home province for the hearings today.
The purpose of our meeting today is to carry on with the study of Indian Act electoral reform. Thus far we have heard witnesses in Ottawa and in Manitoba. We consider this western tour to be a very important part of the study since so many British Columbia First Nations are affected by the election provisions under the Indian Act.
Before beginning this morning I would like to offer some background on why the committee embarked on this issue.
The decision to study elections under the Indian Act is in part based on concerns raised by First Nations about the requirement under the Indian Act to have elections every two years. They say this makes it difficult for their leaders to set longer-term strategic direction or to plan for and implement sustainable processes before they face another election. The frequency of elections can also create uncertainty for community members. Having considered these concerns, on April 1, 2009, the committee agreed to examine issues related to Indian Act elections.
The committee is seeking the views of affected First Nations with respect to three elements in particular. First, extension of the terms of office for chiefs and councils; second, establishment of common-day election dates; and third, possible removal mechanisms should terms of office be extended.
The committee began public hearings in April 2009 in Winnipeg and Dauphin, Manitoba. The second set is taking place here in B.C. Earlier this week we heard witnesses in Kelowna and Williams Lake. Today's Vancouver hearings will mark the end of our western trip. In mid-October we plan to travel to Fredericton and Miramichi, New Brunswick.
First Nations that currently hold elections under the Indian Act or that have recently converted to custom elections have comprised the majority of witnesses heard to date. The committee is also setting aside a prescribed amount of time for open-mike sessions, where community members can voice their concerns and provide ideas.
Members of the committee anticipate tabling a final report to the Senate by the end of 2009.
We have four panels scheduled this morning, followed by our open-mike session from twelve to one.
Without further delay, I would like to introduce our first panel. From the Musqueam First Nation we have Chief Ernest Clark Campbell, and Chief Sid Douglas from the Cheam First Nation. We are awaiting Chief Donna Gallinger from the Nicomen First Nation. I would ask each of you to confine your presentation to five minutes in order for us to have time for questions. Perhaps we could begin with the Chief Campbell, followed by Chief Douglas and then Chief Gallinger if she is able to make it.
Ernest Clark Campbell, Chief, Musqueam First Nation: Thank you, Senator Campbell.
I want to take this opportunity to welcome the panel here. To the Acting Chair, it is always a pleasure to meet with you. We go back a little ways when he was the mayor of this city. I want to welcome you to the traditional territory of the Musqueam First Nation. I want to thank you for the opportunity and the invitation to come here and make a few comments about elections under the Indian Act.
The current term of office is two years and that is not long enough. I realize that each First Nation, by resolution from their community, can petition the Minister of Indian Affairs to have it extended, and some go under the traditional manner. However, I think that if you want to amend the Indian Act to change the term of office, First Nations want it. In every election in Musqueam under the two-year system, we talk about extending the term, but we never get around to doing that. I think it should be extended to four years.
The majority of First Nations and chiefs I talk to, particularly in British Columbia, have terms under four years. It can be standardized at whatever you want, I do not have too much problem with which, but it needs to be extended. There also should be options for each First Nation. For example, in our community we talked about having four years for the chief and possibly staggering three year terms for the councillors. That way you have continuity. I do not think it should be too restrictive, there should be options.
I think you also should take into consideration that a lot of First Nations adopt the traditional ways of their people. We are basically Indian Act chiefs that get elected, but some First Nations in British Columbia use both methods. For hereditary chiefs, it is a lifetime job. The elected chiefs look after programs, while the traditional leaders look after important things like Aboriginal rights and title.
I will leave it at that for now. Again, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this committee.
The Acting Chair: Thank you, chief.
Sid Douglas, Chief, Cheam First Nation:
[The witness spoke in his native language.]
My name is Chief Sidney Douglas of the Cheam Village of the Pilalt Tribe of the Sto:Lo up in the Fraser Valley. I would like to thank the Musqueam for having us here today to discuss these important issues.
The present election process has not been good for many of our communities and bands. Sometimes you get a council that is in mega drive, they are setting initiatives. Then you can get a new council in, or maybe one or two councillors who are not in favour of an issue that has been started, and that really slows the progress. The two-year term is really short. We find that it is not really good, because it can take the first six or eight months if you have a brand new council come in to office, for the new councillors to figure out where they want to be. At the end of the term they might have four to six months to try and move to where they want to be, and by that time their term has ended.
A two-year term leaves little time for chiefs and councils to build their working strategy and plans, to bring a positive change for the community. As well, the members will often not even see change after two years of a new council being in.
The four-year term would give us a lot of time to demonstrate to the members that progress is being made on the work we have done within the community. Sometimes when you get a whole brand new council in, it really upsets the apple cart in terms of where the previous council was going.
As Chief Campbell said, when we added new councillors to our council a few years back, we were hoping that we could have a staggered election time. That way, when we have new councillors come on board we will always have other councillors keeping their positions, and create consistency for our communities. That is really important. A lot of our bands are looking at custom elections and better election systems, because they know Indian Act elections are not working.
Another of our community's concerns is with the new election process where you have off-reserve eligibility for running on council. We have seen some bands run into trouble. They were using custom elections, and their off- reserve-members were allowed to run for council. When it was over, the whole new council lived in Washington State, so they were not even in the community. This could create drastic outcomes for members who are not living in the community, because a lot of them are not familiar with what is happening within the community. I know we have members in the United States we have not even met, because they grew up there. For them to make a decision about helping in our community, they would have to come and live there for a while to understand where we are at.
I do not have much more else to say. I would just like to thank the Senate Committee for asking me to present some of our concerns on behalf of our people. Ey Siyam.
The Acting Chair: Thank you, chief.
Donna Gallinger, Chief, Nicomen First Nation: Good morning everyone. Thank you for inviting me down here.
We just recently went to our elections on August 27, so I have been hitting the ground running. I have been listening to Chief Campbell and Chief Douglas and I agree with them about terms of office being too short. The changeover of chief and council both at the same time does create havoc within the community. Not only are they having to learn the ropes if they are new to the council, but they also have to learn what the band business has been. This creates a delay, and very often there are mixed emotions regarding what is happening on the reserve. There can be issues that either have not been taken care of or that are left in limbo because of changes in the chief and council. It takes time to realize what the other chief and councils have been doing. And that is time we do not have within our two years.
I also have something to say about some other matters in the Indian Band Election Regulations under the Indian Act. I have concerns about section 3(b), place of ordinary residence. We have had members move back the day before nominations. We have had people using utility bills as evidence that they live on the reserve when they do not. They tell the electoral officer that this is proof they live on the reserve, and what can we do about that?
With respect to 3(d), temporary absence of ordinary place, I have some comments. This is about college students, students going away to school and living off reserve, who are termed ``temporary off reserve.'' We had band members who moved off reserve and then went to school, and now come under this phrase because they are going to school and are termed ``temporary residents.''
Warren v. Canada regarding housing difficulties on reserve has opened up a lot of temporary absence, pursuant to paragraph (d). If this is the case and everybody can claim that they have a temporary absence, then more than 90 per cent of our reserve members can be classified under this section.
I believe there may have been problems arising from 4.1(a), reporting the band electoral list if the band assumed control of its own membership. We had a situation where the electoral officer asked for addresses from the membership clerk, and because she had a sister running in the election, may or may not have adjusted the addresses to favour her. This is not proven, but an analysis of returned mail confirmed that the old addresses were used for some ballots.
The requirement that the electoral officer only gets the mailing address from the membership clerk should be changed. The mailing addresses should also come from the band itself, because they have sent out more stuff than the membership clerk does and they have a more up-to-date address. It should also be verified from the electoral officer that this is the correct address. This would save money and time, and people would not feel left out or neglected. I have had quite a few calls saying that people have not received their ballots and feel neglected because this process is not working. They have mail coming in from the band office, but this important document from the electoral officer was sent to the wrong address.
The final thing I want to talk about is 5.62(d), regarding the mail-in ballot and the signing voter declaration. I understand that this is a new process, but questions have arisen regarding the signature. We understand the person has to sign their declaration before a witness. There are questions about one person signing twice, using someone else's name as the witness.
I agree also with Chiefs Campbell and Douglas regarding staggering the council elections. A lot of bands also have 12 councillors, and having 12 change over as well as a chief is a lot of work, especially if all or more than half of those councillors are new. We have a young generation coming up. We need to teach them, we need to show them the proper way. We cannot do this if we are arguing within ourselves about stuff.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much.
Senator Raine: Given that I am relatively new to the committee, I of course do not know all the different First Nations, Chief Campbell. Could you tell me approximately how many people are on the Musqueam First Nation roll and how many are on reserve and off reserve?
Mr. Campbell: We are pushing 1,300 total band members or our band list. I think we are probably about 50/50 one way or the other on or off the reserve.
One thing I would like to mention has just jumped into my mind, arising from discussion of the on reserve/off reserve question. I remember that one time you could not vote if you were off reserve. Now you can become a councillor. One thing that really bothers me is that anybody can run for chief, if I remember correctly; you do not have to be a band member. It happened in our community that, as a joke, one of our band members would just jot down a name of a non-band member, and the person would not even know he was down there. I believe strongly that to be chief of your tribe or your band, you should be a member of that tribe. As it is, it is kind of ridiculous that anybody can run for chief whether he is First Nation or not.
I guess when they were drafting the Indian Act, they figured we did not have enough qualified people to run for chief in our communities, so they opened it up for anybody else. That bothers me and I think that should be looked after.
I think Chief Douglas mentioned that First Nations use custom. I think that should be respected.
We need to lengthen the terms of office, because for a lot of bands now, nothing gets done for three, four, six months before or after an election. Senator Campbell and most of you know this applies to any election, be it municipal, city, provincial or federal.
Things stop as far as we are concerned too, because you have to deal with the Department of Indian Affairs. First Nations communities are going to have an election every two years. A lot of things do not happen prior to an election or immediately after.
I guess we are fortunate in our community, Musqueam, we have been fairly consistent in our council members and chief, there has not been that much of a turnover. I do not know if that happens too often throughout the province where there is a major turnover in councillors and changes in Chiefs.
Senator Raine: I would like to ask both Chief Douglas and Chief Gallinger the same question, just so I understand the size of your communities.
Mr. Douglas: Our community numbers are tipping 500 right now, and I think we have about 60 per cent who live off reserve. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of our members live in the U.S. and grew up there because of the economics of the years past, Some do not even know where our community is.
That creates a problem when it comes to elections. As Chief Gallinger said, we have to track our members down wherever they are. I know we get a lot of mail back as well that says the person does not live at this address anymore. We do not know where they are, because they do not let the band know where they are. They distance themselves, because they have not really been orientated as they were growing up, to be members of the community up here.
Senator Raine: What did you say the total number was of the band?
Mr. Douglas: About 500.
Senator Raine: Chief Gallinger?
Ms. Gallinger: I am from a really small population, but it is an old population. If you look on the maps, the gold rush trail, the very oldest ones, you will see our name on there. It was a very good fishing village, a gold capital, and still is now, but now we have to fight for our water, because gold wants to take priority over our watershed.
The population of the Nicomen Band is 152, but unlike these gentlemen here that have quite a few councillors to assist them, I only have two, which is just as hard because in the end we all take on more than one job. I wear many hats. I am fire chief, I am the management representative, I am taxation, I am on the board of directors at the tribal association. I have been enlisted to do other things as well, such as help with healing now. As Nicomen Chief, it does get to be quite a heavy workload.
Senator Raine: So the Indian Act regulations that say you can only have the chief plus 1 per 100 people does not take into account the work-load?
Ms. Gallinger: No, it does not.
Senator Raine: That is very interesting. Are any of your three communities looking now to change to a custom election code?
Mr. Douglas: Our community has probably struggled over the concept over the last 15 years. One of the things is that with the two-year term, one council just starts getting there, and the next council lets it sit on the shelf. It has been on the shelf for our community for quite a while. A four-year term might help us set some of these things in place, because in order to go to custom, we have to have a referendum. It is just like an election to change the rule of our election at home.
Mr. Campbell: That is a good question, Senator Raine, and I appreciate it. If you look historically and traditionally in Musqueam, every family would appoint a head spokesman to speak for their family, and that would make up the, I guess you could call it the council. Out of those people, they would appoint their main spokesman on major issues such as hunting and fishing, because in Musqueam we are traditionally warriors, hunters and fishermen. They would appoint a main spokesman to deal with the first Europeans on contact and other First Nations there.
In a sense, I am very fortunate as a younger man that my family told me I can speak for them, so even though we have elections, I am free to speak on behalf of my family. Then there are other families in my community that have that same authority or the blessing, because we have family meetings sometimes and deal with certain issues at community family meetings in our community. All are welcome to speak, but still a lot of them feel more comfortable when they have somebody else to speak.
To try to answer your question, we have never seriously discussed moving to custom. We are always concerned about the length of the term under the Indian Act. I always maintain it should always be open for First Nations if they want to go under custom. I know now Band Council resolutions can be used to adopt different terms, because some are doing it now. I think it would be better, a lot simpler for that to be done under the Indian Act, so long as we are under that umbrella of the Indian Act. I know we are trying to get rid of it. Thank you.
Senator Raine: Ms. Gallinger?
Ms. Gallinger: I have lots of things going on in my head right now. One of the things on our list is custom election. As the other chiefs mentioned, it is a process, and it can take over two years, so you can get it going and then it would die in the water, so to speak.
Another thing that has come across the table quite a few times is that a lot of the political meetings that are coming up want to hear from ``the chief.'' For me, wearing many hats, I am wanted in other places than are more important than coming down to Vancouver, driving six hours there and back. That is time I could be using for my people doing something better. I see no problem in appointing one of my councillors to come and speak on behalf of us. They are also instructed about what we want and where we stand, and they also believe in the future of their people, so they have just as strong a voice as I do.
Senator Raine: Chief Gallinger, perhaps you could just clarify one thing for me. From what I am reading and hearing, it seems to me that if a band goes to custom, they have much more control of how to constitute and elect their council to conform to their traditions and what works for them. If you are having trouble moving to a custom election code because of the shortage of your time, then that seems to be a real impediment. If you could speed up the process, would you consider going to a custom code?
Ms. Gallinger: More than likely, but I would have to meet with the rest of the band members themselves to verify that. I can only speak on behalf of what I see and what I have talked about with other people within my band and within my family. It is not a majority vote, but each one has an equal say in that as well.
Senator Raine: Yes. I believe that the process does include the necessary consultation, Chief Gallinger, because obviously it would be a major change. The people in your community would probably have to have the first say in terms of, ``Let us see if we can do this,'' and of course the last say in actually signing off on the new code. I am thinking that a new code would allow you to elect, for instance, more than two councillors. The two-councillor limit is put in there by the Indian Act. If you had your own code, you could have a bigger council.
Ms. Gallinger: Yes.
Senator Raine: Of course you could have a term that would be suitable as well.
The Acting Chair: I think that we are dealing with this term limit.
I just have one question. Right now you could go to custom election without changing the act. We would all like to get rid of the act, let's make that clear right up front. We would like to get rid of that act. You could go to custom and set your own rules or we could make the recommendation that within the act that we change it to four years. Then you could still go to custom, but you would have the ability to go to four-year terms.
What are your thoughts on changing the act to go to four years, which still allows you to go to custom at any time? We have heard continually that two years is not enough, and as someone who only did three years, I can understand that. What are your thoughts on that of changing the act to go to four years?
Mr. Douglas: I would be in favour of changing the act to go to four years.
Another thing that really has not been spoken about here is that we all have different-sized bands and we all have to administer the same services. Even if they have a bigger council, the smaller bands still need the capacity to deliver the services. Most of our councils look at the budget and the proposal and agree it is good. The hard part, then for some of the smaller bands, is to be able to carry through with a lot of what they want and need to be done.
Mr. Campbell: I have no problem with changing the Indian Act to four years, and also maintaining the option for First Nations if they want to go under custom. It would take a while to do that. We would still have to go through the process of meetings, and in every native community we have a lot of young people as the majority of the population is fairly young, teenagers to 25, and we are getting younger. There will be a lot of educating to do to bring everybody up to speed. Naturally a lot of them do it in-house, the elders teaching our young the traditional ways, but not all of them.
I listened to Chief Gallinger talking about the workload imposed by the Indian Act, with one councillor to a hundred people so if you have only 150, you are only allowed two councillors. That should also be up to the individual First Nations. I know under the Indian Act we could probably have about 12 councillors and it will go up. I know some had 15 and sometimes it gets too much in our committee. We cut it off at 10 councillors, regardless. I think even up to now we could have 12 councillors, but like any committee or whatever councillors, you get too many chiefs sometimes.
Ms. Gallinger: Changing to the four-year term would be good, but my question back to you is what about the other concerns raised today regarding parts of the other Indian Act? Will those change, will those be adapted? Going to custom election, true, would be nice, but in the end you have a lot to deal with in regards to designing and ensuring proper solutions to the problems I have pointed out. It is a lengthy process, and I do not see it being done within a two- year term.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much. We have run out of time for this panel, and I note that the other panel members are here. I want to thank you all for coming. This has been an incredibly challenging question, given the nature of the First Nations.
Chief Douglas, you are not the first chief to comment on population and capacity, and certainly we understand that difficulty. At the end of the day, what we would like is for each First Nation to be able to decide their future and their course and how it should go unencumbered by a bureaucracy that sits in Ottawa. I want to thank you all for coming today.
I would now like to welcome Chief Violet Mundy from the Ucluelet First Nation.
As you know, we are studying the issue of elections under the Indian Act, and we would like to allow you time to speak and comment on it. Then I know that Senator Nancy Greene Raine, who is with me here today, and I would have questions for you, so please go ahead.
Violet Mundy, Chief, Ucluelet First Nation: Thank you. I took the time to write some notes, and those will be provided to you. They are quite lengthy, so I will not read them verbatim; I will just highlight some of the areas that I consider important and for you to hear from the perspective of the Ucluelet First Nation.
I thank you for inviting me to attend this session. Elections and the leadership selection are very important issues for our people. In my paper, I speak to the two-year term, the establishment of common-day elections and the possible use of a removal or a recall mechanism.
I cannot speak for other First Nations, as each has a distinct history, culture, economy, language and political organization. In addition, by virtue of our treaty and our constitution, our nation has a unique legal status.
As one of the five tribes within the Maa nulth Treaty Society, we entered into treaty negotiations with the Canada and British Columbia governments in 1994 and the necessary legislation received Royal Assent in June of 2009.
I would like to read some excerpts from the constitution that guided us as we went through the negotiations as well. Our constitution states that we have, throughout time, functioned on and abided by an internal order based on our Ha'wiih and Hahoolthee traditional territory. We have existed from time immemorial and have occupied and used the lands, waters and resources of our traditional territory. We draw our identity from our relationship to our land and from our rich heritage, culture, language and our stories, myths and oral traditions. We honour our ancestors and our elders and commit ourselves to the values that they preserved for us, values that provide us dignity and enhance our humanity.
As self-determining peoples, we accept the responsibilities inherent in governing ourselves and seek, with the assistance of Naas, the creator, to govern with wisdom and respect for all people. Throughout the act of governing, we assume the power to serve our natural world and enhance our identity.
Speaking to the Indian Act, I am sure over the course of the past few weeks, if not months, you have heard from many Aboriginal groups regarding the Indian Act.
My only comment is that the Indian Act is unquestionably one of the most viciously unjust pieces of legislation in Canadian history. Its aim was to assimilate Aboriginal people into mainstream culture, rather than recognize the uniqueness and values of their culture.
In practice, the removal of the fundamental right of citizenship was a profound blow to the Aboriginal people of this country. Traditional government was broken. Missionaries, the Canadian Government and the Indian Act are responsible. My comment is, in all honesty, can society at large fix it? I believe they cannot. The Crown cannot, in good faith, and should not be responsible for redefining ``Aboriginalness.'' Tradition is not static; what behaviour was deemed traditional 50 to 100 years ago has changed with the socio-political context in which we live today.
Given the opportunity to reflect and act with a decolonized view of tradition, a more inclusive and non-oppressive definition of traditional could be created by Aboriginal people themselves.
The government told us that our social and economic welfare would be improved. Instead a social, cultural and economic disintegration occurred, the effects of which can be felt to this day.
While the upheaval of life on many Aboriginal communities is well known, the devastation of those tribes remains largely an untold story.
For many the failed promises of a better life and forced dependency on social programmes resulted in loss of dignity, stigma and alienation. By the 1970s, an ancient culture marked by a resourcefulness and independence had suffered many losses. It was time for change, driven this time by the Ucluelet themselves, and intended to meet our needs and priorities. Through self-government, we will build on a tradition of innovation to shape our own destiny.
Our future is in great hands. More than 37 per cent of our tribes are under the age of 25. They are the driving force, full of ambition and ideas, and most importantly, they are full of interest in the future of our nation, full of interest in preserving our culture. Today more than ever we must ensure that we have a place for those who keep us grounded, our elders, and our youth will make our people soar.
Our belief is, youth addressing youth issues. We believe that through empowering youth to address youth issues, we are building a leadership skill that ensure a bright future for us all.
Within our culture there has always been a strong sense of family and a fundamental belief in the equality of men and women, though traditionally men and women had different responsibilities and different roles. The Ucluelet culture has also had a long tradition of welcoming innovation, respecting and encouraging those who find a better way to do things.
Within our community and abroad, we have been planning for the realities of self-government for many years, from drafting our constitution which declares our rights and values. When I say ``abroad'' I am referring to members that live away from home.
From this historic foundation we, the Ucluelet people, have adopted and shaped fundamental values that unite us, define us and upon which this constitution is based.
In June 2007 we achieved consensus amongst our members when we voted overwhelmingly in favour of adopting the Ucluelet Constitution.
Regarding the Indian Act elections, the issue of how we select leaders and how we choose those who will represent us is at the heart of our people. There has been an incredible amount of division created with the imposition of external processes, such as the election and leadership selection system within the Indian Act. This electoral system often took power away from the majority, since under our traditional system the various social groups within a community had some form of built-in representation. In addition, the system of holding an election every two years has resulted in a continuing state of uncertainty and instability.
There have been many government initiatives, reports, surveys, studies conducted and court cases over the years, and I name some of the few: The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples; Gathering Strength in 1998; the Corbière decision; the First Nations Governance Initiative, Bill C-7; Matrimonial and Real Property. I have read the Harvard Study on Indian Economic Development. The author clearly established the critical importance of leadership in governance to help pave the way forward for development.
Quite often I receive information from Statistics Canada, which has data from the 2006 census, but their system utilizes the term ``identity'' as opposed to ``ancestry.'' This points to the notion of using identity because of the restrictive conditions imposed by the Indian Act. The data is not truly reflective of the situation. This is not enough. When I say ``this is not enough,'' I do not mean we need more studies or reports. What I have seen is economic, governmental and social initiatives are being implemented independently of each other.
We need a more integrated approach that examines empowerment, the health of a community, and the capacities necessary to achieve stable, efficient, economically viable and accountable Aboriginal governments. Research has tended to consider culture, social, economic and governmental processes in isolation from each other. This has made it difficult to understand the overall process by which societies become stronger.
As well, research in Aboriginal communities tended to utilize economic and governmental indicators and to compare and rate the wide diversity of Aboriginal communities on these measures. This has meant the exclusion of many elements that particular communities might consider strengths, such as culture, spirituality, social groups, identity, family and community healing or emotional well-being. Interestingly enough, recent research suggests that these elements are crucially important to the level of happiness in industrialized societies.
The Ucluelet have looked beyond these initiatives. There are a large number of issues relative to our governance and the need to ensure that all Ucluelet First Nation members are recognized and respected. It is not a matter of creating a new system, we are not reinventing the wheel. Instead, the objective was to uncover longstanding laws and practices and have them recognized.
Currently we are in the drafting stages of our Elections Act, which incorporates several elements. This list is only partial, for the purposes of giving you a flavour of the act. On terms of office, our people want four-year terms. The system of holding an election every two years has resulted in a continuing state of uncertainty and instability. The two- year term is a short horizon for learning about governance and setting strategic direction. It hinders long-term planning and can lead to lack of continuity.
We will have standards and practices, which state each election official is expected to perform their functions according to the standards and practices set out in the act. We include impartiality of electoral officers, their duties and powers and persons ineligible for appointment as electoral officer; nomination and candidate qualifications; voter qualifications; election appeals; a dispute resolution mechanism; and procedures for a recount.
We as the Ucluelet people have the opportunity and the responsibility to make something better out of something that is flawed, that has a legacy of discrimination. The opportunity exists to abolish the Indian Act and to build an arrangement that is sensitive to the realities that are workable and which enables all Ucluelet members to participate in the decision-making processes of our nation.
I recognize that lasting solutions can only be found when each First Nation member/citizen is directly involved in the designing and affirming the details of its own self-governing practices.
The aspirations of each First Nation are unique and no one-size-fits-all approach can ever provide the specific tools that each tribe needs to address its own particular needs and aspirations.
In regards to the ``common day election,'' for the area I come from, there are two systems that I know of, the customary and the Indian Act election system. There are treaty tribes and non-treaty tribes. There are tribes who have their own constitution and some do not. Some have their own election code and some do not. Given all of this, it is not clear to me what would be accomplished by legislating a common election day, as opposed to a provision that recognizes the power or right of all First Nations to set the length of their own terms. The merit of a common-day election is an issue that would be best decided by the people pre-eminently and qualified to determine such matters.
As for the recall process, in my opinion, it is offensive. As a small tribe of 600-plus citizens, where there are large families that are interconnected, our constitution defines a fundamental value that unite us and define us, values which include respecting our elders and respecting our families and kinship systems. A short while ago I reviewed a list of past chiefs and councils who served our community. I found that when a chief or council member was not able to function in that capacity due to illness or other reasons, they voluntarily resigned their position, which triggered a by-election. Clearly more work is required in this key area.
I close my remarks by reiterating that I am not against change. I see potential here because I think Canada, under its laws, share responsibility for where we ended up today.
I found during the period of negotiations and ratification process in our treaty that we involved our people, residence was not an issue. They are Ucluelet citizens. We gave them the opportunity to talk about nation building and how we share and accept responsibility for issues of governance. It was an empowering experience for me.
There is a responsibility to address these issues for future generations. This must be the time and the generation where we do away with the Indian Act.
I believe that this committee, the Senate Committee, can have a significant say in and contribution to helping us move along this road. Let us get on with it.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much. As always, eloquent.
Senator Raine: It is wonderful to have you here. I thank you for putting your remarks on paper as well because it just gives us time to reread them and to really think deeply about what you are saying.
I know you have signed the treaty, and that was wonderful. Does that mean that you are now able to move out of from under the Indian Act elections?
Ms. Mundy: No. We have to wait for an effective date now, that is the last process for us, and every time we turn around there is another process to go through, so the effective date has not been finalized yet.
Senator Raine: You are moving towards the effective date?
Ms. Mundy: Oh, yes, we are.
Senator Raine: Right now you are working on your new Election Act?
Ms. Mundy: Yes. Amongst other acts and codes we are developing right now. We are also doing the Land Act and the Financial Act, so we are working quite a few right now.
Senator Raine: I am not sure if the process that you are going through is different from or similar to the process that any First Nation would go through if they wanted to set their own custom code in place, but I just wondered if you can share with us how onerous it is to develop this code?
Ms. Mundy: It is very onerous. For us it is. What we did in our Ucluelet Nation is we have formed what we are calling ``working committees,'' and the working committees are comprised of Ucluelet First Nation members. Our treaty staff are the resource people, and our working-committee members are comprised of Ucluelet members no matter where they live. We have an office in the Town of Ucluelet, and we invite them there or we go out to the urban areas. It is a long process. I think our people are used to that now. They just plug away at it and work at developing our nation and informing them of codes and laws and acts.
Senator Raine: What percentage of your members live on reserve at home and away?
Ms. Mundy: The latest count we have, our population I believe is 620, and about 60 per cent live away from home. The next largest group of Ucluelet members is in Port Alberni, and the last count we have was about 50 families there. The rest are scattered from Alberta and Saskatchewan to the mainland, but we do have up-to-date addresses and contacts for them. There are very few whose addresses and phone numbers we do not have.
Senator Raine: I think because you have gone through the treaty process, you probably have had a few more resources and energy towards finding where all your members are.
Ms. Mundy: Yes.
Senator Raine: You can imagine for other treaties who are not going through the process, it is a very difficult thing. In your history and your customs, did you have a history of families being involved in the governance of the overall community?
Ms. Mundy: Yes, we have. We picked up on that as we were going through the treaty negotiations, the treaty information sharing. What we did during our negotiations as we went through various issues was, we asked family heads to pick a topic. For my family, the Toosey family, our topic of interest was taxation, and we had family group meetings. In my family group meetings there were approximately 24 members. We found that was the best way to work on several of our issues, because some of those people could never come out to our community meetings for working purposes or because they were living away from home, so we went out to them.
The Tuchy family lives in Vancouver and the majority of that family group were young people. When they had a session there, they talked about governance, and there were 18 people there from that family. We look at families, and we gave them the responsibility of sharing the information with their immediate families.
Senator Raine: You are using the family groups as an effective way of communicating.
Ms. Mundy: Yes, we are.
Senator Raine: Are you keeping track of their addresses and how to reach them?
Ms. Mundy: Yes.
Senator Raine: In other words, you would not see a difficulty in having voting from a governance structure different from everybody?
Ms. Mundy: Yes.
Senator Raine: That is great.
The Acting Chair: When is this effective date going to take place and what are the issues determining that?
Ms. Mundy: The issue of determining the effective date rests on one of the governments. It gets to be a merry-go- round sometimes where I am sure they are there to test our patience. The last we heard, Canada has said it needs time to prepare documents in terms of getting our current reserve lands surveyed and preparing a mechanism for turning the lands over to the Ucluelet people. It has not been confirmed, but the last we heard was that the effective date would most likely be April 2011.
The Acting Chair: Just so I am clear, when did you start the treaty process?
Ms. Mundy: In 1994, but in the late 1970s the Ucluelet people started what we called at that time ``land claims.'' That started with our elders. Over time, the B.C. Treaty Commission came into existence, and we entered into actual negotiations in 1994.
The Acting Chair: The effective date of course does not have a lot to do with what we are here to discuss today, but you can take my word for it there will be questions asked on this, because I assumed, wrongly obviously, that when we passed this through the Senate and it received Royal Assent that that would be it. I assumed that with all of this planning has been going on for 15 years, surely all of this would be in place.
Ms. Mundy: Yes.
The Acting Chair: There will be questions asked about that.
The second question that I have is do you do four years now?
Ms. Mundy: No, we do not. We are currently still under the Indian Act, the election system, so there are two-year terms. If we are going back to the background for our own election system, we started several years ago by doing a survey of our members. One of the questions was, ``What do you feel is a sound term for years of operation?'' The highest response was four-year terms and three-year terms. There was very little suggestion of staggered terms, as right now we have seven in council, and it is quite costly to have elections since that we have so many people living away from home.
The Acting Chair: What would you think of a recommendation that instead of fixing a four year term, fixed a period not exceeding five years. Then you could decide on three, four or five years, or even decide to stay with two. Do you think that would be a reasonable recommendation?
Ms. Mundy: We had a lot of discussion on the five-year term, and our members stated that it was too long.
The Acting Chair: Then how about if we went for a term not exceeding four?
Ms. Mundy: Yes.
The Acting Chair: So then you could have two, three or four?
Ms. Mundy: Yes.
The Acting Chair: Whatever you want. Do you think that would be a reasonable way to go?
Ms. Mundy: Yes.
The Acting Chair: Since we are stuck with having to deal with the Indian Act.
Ms. Mundy: Yes.
The Acting Chair: One of the things that struck me when you appeared before us in the Senate, and it continues to stay in my mind and you reconfirmed it today, was how the Ucluelet deal with the rights of those that do not live on the reserve, do not live in the territory, do not live in the nation. It has been a big concern no matter where we have been, and yet you have been able to overcome that, you have been able to be all-inclusive. How did you do that with such success when it seems like other First Nations have so much difficulty?
Ms. Mundy: It was family. During our negotiations our biggest advisor and our biggest support was our elders, and our elders always reminded us not to forget our people that are living away from home. As I stated earlier, when we were before you in June, was that we have second, third and fourth generations of members that have never been to their home territory. We were just persistent. We put ads in papers like the Vancouver Sun, the Province, First Nation newspapers, with our phone number and asking people to contact us.
If we did not reach a certain family, what we would do is approach a family that lives right in Ucluelet. For example, the Mundy family has family members that left home about 30 or 40 years ago and moved to the Seattle area. They did not contact us for a number of years, and so we went to a family member residing right in Ucluelet and asked them, ``Where are these family members and can you contact them for us or have them contact our office?''
We have a 1-800 number, and it is utilized quite frequently by members that call quite often asking, ``What's happening? What's happening with the treaty? What's happening with our economic development?'' It was a lot of hard work, because we found that our people are very transient too. They will have an address for one person living in Nanaimo, but he or she could be gone the next month. So what we have stressed over and over to them was that, ``When you move, call our office, we have a 1-800 number.'' So it has been persistence.
At our treaty office, one of the tasks for our staff is to keep that address list up to date on a monthly basis, and they have done that. When we started reaching out to our people, we held several meetings in the Town of Port Alberni, because we have a lot of members there. We have about 12 families in Nanaimo. We would go to them and have meetings there. We have update meetings, not only about the treaty, but just about our membership, our Ucluelet, what we are doing, economic development and health issues that we deal with on a regular basis.
Then we have our website, and our website is being looked at on a regular basis. In fact, a couple of weeks ago one member we have not been able to find just happened to key in Ucluelet First Nation. She lives in Ontario and called our office. She is probably about 23, and was really excited to be able to get a response from our office on getting information to her. She apologized for not being in touch with us, but she was very happy when we directed her to some of the areas on the website that are only for Ucluelet First Nations members. So it is just persistence, hard work, a lot of hard work, for us to keep in touch with them.
The Acting Chair: Well, I think I speak for all of us, I said this at the Senate meeting and I say it again, that Ucluelet has to be an inspiration for all of those that have struggled, and I think the key words that you use are ``determination and hard work.''
Ms. Mundy: Yes.
The Acting Chair: You do not quit.
Ms. Mundy: Yes.
The Acting Chair: I want to thank you again for coming today. I will find out about this effective date, and I will contact you.
Ms. Mundy: That would be great.
The Acting Chair: We are now pleased to welcome Chief David Bob from Nanoose First Nation and Chief Randy Daniels from the Malahat First Nation.
Welcome, and thanks for coming over across the water. I just would like to go into just a little bit of a preamble and say that we have travelled to Manitoba, we have travelled through British Columbia, we will be going to New Brunswick, and we have had hearings in Ottawa on the issue of elections for First Nations. We have been dealing with all aspects of it. From the comments that we have heard to date and with your comments, we will be making recommendations and putting out a report, hopefully before the end of this year. It is absolutely crucial to us that we hear from those people affected, and that the decisions that are being made that affect all of the First Nations are not only right legally, but are right morally, and so we look forward to hearing your testimony.
I have with me today Senator Nancy Greene Raine. I do not have to tell you that she is a proud British Columbian, I think all of Canada and the world knows that.
I would ask Chief Bob to make his comments first, please.
David Bob, Chief, Nanoose First Nation: Good morning. I believe you have a copy of my statements. I will read through that.
I would like to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address you today. Before I begin, it is our tradition that we would express our gratitude to the Squamish, Musqueam and Centre For Aboriginal Peoples for allowing us in their territory today.
I am pleased to add my voice to those of First Nations leaders across the country who have already testified on the subject of First Nations election reform. In so doing, I believe the committee will find that my own views are much the same as those that have already been expressed by many other chiefs.
As elected officials of First Nations governments, we continue to struggle within the enormous constraints and limitations of the Indian Act. For as long as I can remember, both as a voter and as a candidate for elected office, there has been widespread acknowledgement that the two-year term for First Nations chiefs and councils does not provide enough time for effective governance. You might say this is a no brainer. We have all known this for many years, and yet we seem unable to act on making the fundamental change to enabling First Nations to choose longer terms for their chiefs and councils.
I understand that many people consider that the Indian Act needs more comprehensive change and that tinkering with the Act is not appropriate. I fully endorse the need for more comprehensive changes. However, please recognize that the continuing price we pay in our communities for restricted elected terms of office is severe. This is particularly true for a small community like Snaw-naw-as, which is the Indian name for my community, Nanoose.
Snaw-naw-as First Nations has a membership of 224, of which 69 live off the reserve. We have 159 eligible voters, who elect a chief and four councillors every two years. I am currently serving my third term as chief. In addition, I am the health administrator for our village. I was nominated to run for office 10 years ago. Each of my two re-election campaigns was unsuccessful, in other words, I governed for 24 months, sat out for 24 months, governed for another 24 months, and then sat out for another 24 months. I am now coming to the end of my third two-year term ten years later.
When I first stood for election as chief, I did not yet have leadership experience, but I had a vision and a strong interest in improving conditions for our people immediately. Making change happen seemed pretty straightforward, but the truth is I did not really know what I was getting into, and I am sure that those of you who have run for elected office would also say the same. I know that I would not have much time to accomplish some basic changes and I knew that my re-election would depend on how much we could get done. I did not realize how little time I would have.
The first six months went by in a flash. I spent my time looking into the status of various projects, initiatives, consulting with elders and others about priorities, resolving disputes and helping to solve problems of individual band members. During the second six months we focused on planning and community consultation. The final year was spent trying to implement the plans. Throughout it all, of course, I spent a lot of time trying to get Indian Affairs to answer my calls.
I knew I had to get things moving quickly. My priorities were different than that of the previous chief. While he focused on the treaty process, I wanted to improve conditions now, and this meant starting with the sewer system, which was holding up development and worse, and presented a potential serious health hazard because of poor design.
Building a good working relationship with the department was important, but it took time. I took the sewage development as far as I could and as fast as a bureaucratic process would allow, but it was not far enough. I lost my first re-election campaign 24 months later by four votes. I felt I simply ran out of time.
I spent the next two years watching from the sideline as the focus of the band shifted back again to treaty negotiations. The development of the new health centre, a gas station on a highway that runs through our reserve and other developments stalled, and the health hazard from the sewage system continued. After two years on the sideline I ran for my second term. In my first term I had established good relationships with Indian Affairs, and after my re- election, all it took was one short meeting and the new sewage system was back on track.
I then turned my attention to addressing our housing crisis and, although we were able to gain approval for 30 new homes, another term, another 24 months flashed by, and I lost my next election by three votes.
I went back to the bench for another two years, where I watched community development again slow in favour of the treaty process. I am now coming to the end of my third term, and if history repeats itself, I am not sure I will have the energy to run again two years later. We are a poor village, government funding is formula-based, and we simply do not have the numbers to qualify for a lot of government funding. For example, Health Canada recently offered us $250,000 for a health facility, not nearly enough to meet our needs.
We have to manage our money carefully and often have hard decisions to make. Sacrifice, or at least compromise, is required if real change is going to take place. This means difficult choices for band government. It is a well-established political reality that every government must pass unpopular programmes early in its mandate if it hopes to get re- elected. Premier Campbell has four years for B.C. voters to forget HST before they return to the polls. When all you have is two years, tough decisions have to be made and implemented in a matter of weeks, not months or years.
I would also like to take this opportunity to comment briefly on the need for reform to the provisions for the recall of elected officials. There are only five members on our council, and although we do not always agree, we need all five of us on the job. Indian Affairs or officials shrug helplessly when we ask them to help us remove a councillor who will not attend council meetings or otherwise fulfil his or her responsibilities. We need a recall provision that allows for timely removal of elected officials in these circumstances. Do not even think about putting this in place without changing the term of office from two years to four years, for obvious reasons.
Similarly, with the effective appeals mechanism, there are many horror stories about First Nations communities that have had their government body tied up in knots while Indian Affairs considers that appeal to election results. This has to change and, in my opinion, we would be better served by election appeals and recall mechanisms that provide delegated authority to the First Nations appointed bodies.
Thank you very much for this opportunity to address you on these issues today. I thank you and your individual and collective interest in committing to improve the electoral system for First Nations.
The Acting Chair: Thank you, chief.
I would now ask Chief Daniels to speak, and then we will ask some questions.
Randy Daniels, Chief, Malahat First Nation: Thank you. I will be reading this summary, and I am going to speak my language, which is from the Samish territory in Malahat.
[The witness spoke in his native language.]
I would like to start by thanking the Squamish Nation for allowing me on their traditional territory. As well, my thanks go to the Senate committee for allowing me to present our views on the election process.
My name is Hulqumenum, Chief Randy Daniels. I am elected chief of the Malahat First Nation located on the southern Vancouver Island.
The present election rules requiring two-year terms have held our people back and limited our ability to make progress once we elect a chief and council. In the case of the Malahat, a term of three or four years would be more beneficial, as it would allow us to make progress without interruption on our new council's vision.
The three-year period would not work for all First Nations, of course. Some bands do well with the current legislation, some, like Malahat, do better without. The point we would like to stress is that each band should be able to decide for itself the length of term that would be beneficial for its members. We hope that the Senate will allow bands this option in the future.
This two-year system has put us in a Hatfields and McCoys situation. When it comes to election time every two years, the families gather together to put people in the office. In the past with the hereditary chief system, the leaders were just up front with the families. The hereditary system involved the leader of the families, and he would have his workers beside him, whether it be fisheries, whether it be for collecting herbs and collecting things for the wintertime. That would be the hereditary system.
The way it is now, an elected chief and council would have a programme or a project started, and from the 1960s, as far as I have known back, the next chief in council the two years after would totally change everything, they would not follow up from the former chief and council. Under the hereditary system the chief would be picking out the people that would be meeting for the wintertime, summer.
The three- or four-year term will work the best for the Malahat. I do not like to see our community fall apart come election time and turn against each other just for the sake of sitting in a seat. In the past we were leaders in action, and now it is leaders in position, and that is how it has really affected our local First Nations.
The Acting Chair: Thank you. I have a couple of comments and then I will turn it over to Senator Greene Raine.
I have to agree with Chief Bob that the first time you run you really do not know what you are getting into. The difference is you had the courage to run again, and I did not have the courage to run again.
One of the things we keep talking about is the period of time of service for the council and the chief, and there seems to be differing opinions. Not too many like two years, some like three and some like four, so I wonder what you would think about a recommendation that an election be for a period not exceeding four years. That would meet Chief Daniels' concern that the individual band should be allowed to decide what the length of time is. What would you think of that recommendation? Chief Bob first.
Mr. Bob: The term ``not more than four'' sounds all right. It would depend on the community. I would recommend, if you are going to make changes through the Indian Act recommending not more than a four-year term, that the community be allowed to look at the reforms within themselves, almost like the custom provision.
As for Nanoose, we do not use the phrase ``custom elections.'' We have turned away from that because that causes too much turmoil. When you start talking ``customs,'' a lot of our young people do not know what our customs used to be. So the four-year term, yes, I agree with it not more than four, and still allowing the individual, if he did serve the four-year term, that he still be allowed to run again for that seat.
The Acting Chair: Oh, yes.
Mr. Bob: As long as that is in there.
The Acting Chair: I do not think that anybody that has been before us has ever suggested that you were limited to one term, it was simply how long should that term be. So it would allow that flexibility, because it is up to, and so you could do three, you could do two, you probably could do staggered, if you wanted, that kind of a recommendation.
Mr. Bob: That is the approach we are looking at, a staggered election. I have heard comments from communities who have gone into the four-year term. Some say it is too long, some say it is not long enough. It is up to the individual communities. The smaller communities have different challenges than the larger communities. I and my brother here are both from small communities. I would say the four-year term, up to four years, would give the community an opportunity to decide if they want three or four. The two years just does not work.
The Acting Chair: Chief Daniels, your comments.
Mr. Daniels: For your information, Malahat and Nanoose are descendants of the Douglas Treaty with the Saanich Inlet/Douglas Treaty tribes. So there has been mention of Malahat discussions with the Saanich Inlet tribes and working up some kind of a relationship in that area of elections all at the same time, and it is up for discussion. I think a four-year term would probably do well for us and other nations in the Saanich Inlet. I cannot speak for them, but, like I say, it is in the beginning stages.
Also, we are in a Te'mexw Treaty Association where there are five First Nations, and I think maybe the same can apply to that. We have never mentioned or discussed it, but I think it is a good idea, but I think four would be work well.
The Acting Chair: Who are the five nations that are involved in the treaty?
Mr. Daniels: That is the T'sou-ke First Nation, Beecher Bay First Nation, Songhees First Nation, Snaw-naw-as First Nation, Nanoose, and Malehel, the Malahat First Nation. Did you want the Saanich tribes?
The Acting Chair: No, that is okay. I have a map here that I am just looking at to try to figure it out.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much, Chief Bob and Chief Daniels, for coming today. We really appreciate you taking the time and it is very important for us to listen to as many chiefs as possible. I know that all of the different communities have different challenges, and so the thought of having one formula for everyone is not what we are thinking of at all.
What I would like to ask both of you is this: you are currently doing your elections under the Indian Act legislation. Have you looked into reverting to custom elections, so-called custom elections, and if so, are there any barriers to doing that that you have come up against?
Mr. Bob: Well, Snaw-naw-as are looking at it. We looked at it about ten years ago for the first time. When it got before our community, it caused kind of a turmoil amongst our community members, because, as I was saying, our young people do not really understand the word ``custom,'' they have a different version of it. What happened is that one side of the family said they supported the hereditary side of the family and that, ``If we are going custom, that is the route we should take,'' and the other half of the reserve said no. So that kind of derailed our first attempt at it. We did not get very far into it.
The second time we approached it was in my first year of this term, and people were more receptive to it. One of the downfalls is that we have a two-year term, and it takes more than two years to get this passed. So as you are well aware, even in the federal and the provincial government, if you start something and it gets rolling and it is not passed before your term is up, there is a good chance it is going to get derailed again. So this is what has happened. My election is coming up, we have not even had a chance to have our referendum.
The other thing I found very disheartening about it was that we figured if our community took a look at it and had our lawyers look at it, that would be good enough, because we would be a self-determining people. Then we were told that, no, we would have to come to Vancouver to the lawyers here at INAC, then go from the lawyers at INAC to the lawyers at Ottawa. You are looking at three or four years before it would be passed.
On top of that, another thing in our way is that we are in the treaty process. We are finding that for anything we try to attempt to do today, because we are still governed under the Indian Act, the bureaucrats say, ``Well, you are in a treaty process, we really do not want to get involved in that, let's wait and see.'' I have been waiting 25 years for this treaty, and the way they are talking now, do I have to wait another 25 years before we can make improvements on our band? They have the fiduciary responsibility of not taking care of us, but allowing these rules and laws to go ahead. There is some land we want designated. Again, we were told, because we were going under this land code, that they do not want to pursue that.
So that is it, the bureaucrats, we have stumbling blocks everywhere you turn.
Senator Raine: I almost had to laugh when you said that, because we have heard this many times, but then I said to myself I should not laugh, this is a very serious problem.
Mr. Bob: It is.
Senator Raine: And that is one reason why we are studying this issue, because we recognize it is a very serious problem.
Did you get far enough along in looking at your proposed custom code to come up with how you have nominations and you would look at representation by family groups, and when you started talking about it the second time and you decided not to use the word ``custom,'' what are you calling it now?
Mr. Bob: Just reframing our election code.
Senator Raine: Reframing the election code?
Mr. Bob: The issue is still being brought up. In Nanoose, we are all descendants of one man, my great-grandfather, Nanoose Bob, we are all descendants of this individual. We had a small pox epidemic and we had a mess in our village, but today I find it kind of comical. Our young people are saying we are five distinct families, when we are all descendants of one man.
So they start talking about family heads. Traditionally the eagle crest belongs to the head of the house, the head of the family, the oldest of the family who is usually the spokesperson. Or that family will choose who that spokesperson is going to be. So we run into a little bit of problems, because right now the family group in our community is divided. The great-grandfather had two wives, so you have the eldest of first family and the eldest of the second family both saying they are the eldest of the family. So if you start talking about custom and using these words, that is why I say we try to stay away from that word, because it has ramifications. We are looking at it and we are going to be getting there, yes.
Senator Raine: One final question then. Would you look at having a special councillor or representative for the people who are living off reserve? Maybe I should even rephrase that, how would you communicate and how would you involve those people who live off the reserve?
Mr. Bob: Well, since the Corbière decision, we, by law, have to keep in touch with our people who live off our reserve. Come election time we have to locate all of them, because as I say, we are coming up to our election, my election is December 3, nominations are in October. After the nominations we have to get hold of these people who live off reserve and mail them the ballots. That is one way to get hold of them.
A second route is through treaty, we have to keep our membership list updated, so we receive some funding for that, so that is how we keep in touch with our people who are off reserve. Taking a step back, when you are a small community not in the treaty process, you do not receive funding the way we did through treaty negotiations to try to locate all your members.
We are still being funded based on the 1993 census. Then, Nanoose had 145 members, but we have over 200 now. So that is a problem, but we try our very best. It is well known our people are transient, they move from one place to another. I am fortunate. We have four families who live in the States. The rest of our family has just moved from reserve to reserve or to move with family to family, and that is how we keep in touch.
Senator Raine: If you do not mind, just one other question. You said you are funded based on the 1993 census. Is this because you are in treaty?
Mr. Bob: No. It applies through health and everything. It is the base of the formulas for everything we do.
Senator Raine: 1993?
Mr. Bob: Some things have changed, not all of it.
Senator Raine: That is shocking, I did not know that. Thank you very much. And Chief Daniels, if you care to comment on the same questions.
Mr. Daniels: Can you repeat the question?
Senator Raine: Yes. I was asking have you considered going into what is called the ``Custom Election Code,'' and if so, have you found any impediment in your way? My second question was about how would you have nominations and how would you contact the voters and how would you involve the off-reserve people?
Mr. Daniels: Thank you. The Malahat First Nation has about 150 on and just a little over 150 off reserve. As I mentioned earlier, I would like to get away from this Hatfield and McCoys situation. If I can bring this to our members and let them know that if this can be resolved using the custom or local custom, then I think it would work.
I just brought this to some of our staff members and some of our council. We have two councillors. One of the ways I would like to see it in our area, this is my own personal recommendation, is that we have a representative from families, up to a maximum of six, and that they stay in their seat until they are 99, and the only one that would rotate would be the chief with elections every four years.
Having that in place, I think we can eliminate, in our area, the Hatfields and McCoys. I do not think our people like the strain, it does get unbearable sometimes. I think our nomination system is bizarre. People are gathering already to put people in place just for the position itself, not for what they can do, and I think that is what is sad about our operations. Thank you.
Senator Raine: Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Thank you for coming today. I keep having to repeat myself because we keep going to different panels, but this is an incredibly important process in what is an even larger process. The elephant in the room is Indian Affairs and the Act. This is just one small piece of it. At the end of the day it is going to take the end of that Act and a different way of relating with the First Nations and Aboriginal peoples in this country. So I thank you very much for coming today, and we will recess for five minutes. Thanks again.
Mr. Daniels: I just want to salute each and everyone involved in this big work. It is something that I think we have needed for a long time, not only in B.C., but right across Canada, and it is something that I have witnessed as almost something that I described today. I just want to thank you all.
The Acting Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Bob: I just want to say thank you also for this opportunity, but I would also like to also state that when you do start talking about changing or eliminating the Indian Act, you must remember that there are smaller communities out there who do not have a chance to come and be represented at tables like this. We are very proud people. Even if we only have 14 members in our community, we are a nation and we stand and treat ourselves as such. So some of them do not have the opportunity to come and sit at this table, because they are very strained with their dollars, and they hope that some of us who come out will pass that on. Since I have been involved being a chief, one of my main things is to always speak on behalf of the small communities who do not have the opportunity to come and speak in these situations. Thank you.
The Acting Chair: Well, almost universally the message we get, is that when you come before us, you are speaking for those smaller communities. There is no question that any changes to that Act will be generated from the First Nations, big and small. It cannot come from government, it has to come from the people. Again, my thank you. We will recess for five minutes.
(The committee suspended.)
The Acting Chair: We are now back in session. This is our fourth and final panel. After this we will have an open- mike session. I would like to welcome Chief Janet Webster from the Lytton First Nations and Eugene Bryant, who is a councillor, if I get this wrong, you correct me, of the Lax kw'alaams Band.
Mr. Bryant: Yes.
The Acting Chair: My language skills are getting better from being on this committee. I would ask Chief Webster, please, to go first. As you know, we are looking at the elections issue under the Indian Act, and we are looking for guidance on what we are looking for in making recommendation as part of this committee. So I welcome you today.
Ms. Webster: Thank you. First of all, on the question of term, a two-year term is too short. We are a small community, only 900 or 50 per cent on reserve. We do have 57 reserves within the band, and it is spread out east and west along the Fraser River. We have a lot of diverse needs in our community, so the two-year term is too short. It does cause people to focus on politics within a community. We just get started on settling the pre- election and the after- effects of an election to get everybody used to the new chief or council. We are very fortunate in our time that we had little turnover on our council members, but at times we had a turnover of a chief, and it still is an adjustment for our community.
We are in the process of looking at a leadership code. We still need to bring it to our membership. It was drafted in 2007. I was out of office for two years, and it has not gone to the membership yet for approval, so I still need to get on that to present to our members.
We have a council member of 12, and again there are diverse visions of the direction for the band. In our election code we are looking at cutting it down to maybe seven council members and one chief, and we are looking at three- or four-year terms.
We included both the on and off reserve members under the Indian Act, even prior to the Corbière decision. We notify our members through internet and newsletter mailouts, and we also advertise in the Province and the Sun to ensure that all our members are able to have access and notification of an election process, so as far as I can remember way back, we have always done that.
My understanding of the common day election is that all bands or municipalities would have an election day on the same day. I am not sure how communities would take that. One of the things we find in our office is because we are such a large band and have a large mailout, it costs a lot of money for us to send things off reserve. We have to give notification of election and then we have to do a ballot of the nominees and then we have to do another ballot mailout. We have to hire an electoral officer outside our office. We would still need to have our staff gather current addresses, fill the envelopes and type out the envelopes, taking time away from their other duties, so it is a lot of money. We did get help at one time, but that was taken away. We were looking at staggered election, but with elections in alternate years, it would cost more money, so we are not looking at that right now.
We are looking at the removal from office of a chief or councillor. Our leadership code will address the issue of someone guilty of fraud or sexual abuse or any other kind of Criminal Code violation. You cannot remove someone just because you do not like them or their stern and hard decisions, because they may have a good politic strategy, vision and planning. We have to be very careful because we do have large families in our community who could try to force a person out of office because they could not like him or the stand he takes.
The other thing we find in our community is that some council members are also staff members or programme managers. We are trying to address that through conflict of interest in our leadership code as well.
I am not sure about criteria for being a chief or councillor, but I know that in today's world, we have to look at business-oriented minds. We have to be creative and have networking skills and be professional when we work with other agencies. We need to ensure our councillors have the necessary skills. Some of those on my council do not know how to use the internet or new technology, so we need training dollars to train them. That is some of what we are looking at in our community.
I agree with what has been said about the census they are using as the source of numbers in the funding formulas. It is outdated: the figures are not current, and some of our people do not participate in a census because they feel it is infringing on their rights.
We are a small community and we like to ensure a healthy council. I believe that if we have a healthy council, healthy leadership, then we will have a healthy community. We have been impacted by the residential schools, and a lot of our people have buried their problems either in alcohol or drugs or other social issues. As a result, as leaders we need to be healthy role models, so our people and our staff follow us and become healthy. This means no alcohol, no drugs and keeping a good mind and a good spirit.
Regarding changes in the Indian Act, we want to make sure that the fiduciary responsibility is not limited to transfers of responsibility to the bands or the council. Frequently, when responsibilities are transferred to our communities, we do not get the funding or resources that are needed to carry them out. We do not have the support staff necessary to carry out a lot of these duties.
The Acting Chair: Okay. Thank you very much, chief. Councillor.
Mr. Bryant: Good morning everyone. My name is Alkawikbias, I belong to the Gitwelgot Tribe, I hail from Lax kw'alaams, my crest is Ganada, the Raven, my name is Eugene Bryant, and I am an elected councillor for my community. We have 3,500-4,000 members. We have 1,171 eligible voters.
I would like to thank the First Nations who own this territory for allowing us to participate and to you for coming out and gathering this very important information. I agree with colleagues who have spoken that this is long overdue.
We are involved in putting our election regulations together, and have held meetings in our community in the City of Prince Rupert, in the City of Terrace and in Vancouver. A lot of our membership lives down south here as well as in the communities that I mentioned. We have been trying for years and years to include all our off-reserve members.
We have a new website that I think it is completed now, but we had one before. We have always tried to reach out to our membership, in the same ways that others have already mentioned: through families and through phone calls. We are always trying to get everyone interested in our elections.
One of the biggest problems we faced right off the bat, is the term ``custom code''. The first thing people thought of was our traditional customs, and they tried to integrate that into this election process from Ottawa, and it does not mix. We had a very difficult time trying to explain it. The confusion was unbelievable. It was very stressful, but we just kept moving forward. So what we call it now is our Lax kw'alaams Indian Band Election Regulations Code.
I believe the word ``customs'' should not be used, and if I had had that insight right off the start in our meetings and deliberations with my people, I would not even have mentioned it. It is very simple to get confused, with our traditional and hereditary system. We had to explain that our traditional and our hereditary system is a stand alone system. The electoral system that we are involved in is not a part of our life-style or our culture. So we had to explain that in that context.
I should let you know where we are located. We are about 30 kilometres along the coast from Prince Rupert. My community, Lax kw'alaams, borders Alaska. You may have heard about the Ridley Island gateway. That land is all part of our traditional territories.
Right now, our council includes one mayor and twelve councillors, it is a fair size. Our band election is on November 19. We are also putting forward this Lax kw'alaams Indian Band elections regulations code, which we are hoping our membership will accept. We have sent out brochures and our final copies of our draft. It has been quite an experience going through it.
I am the chair of the committee that worked on the proposal, and one of the things I noticed is that the four-year term is better for us, compared with a two-year term. The two-year term is just not worth it when you are looking at national and international global effects and what is happening in the world and how you are tied into it. The two-year term is not good for business, and that is what we are about. We are elected to look after our membership, so now comes in the business side of it.
One of the most important things for anybody to do to move forward to establish any kind of business is building relationships and trust with the proponents or those you are dealing with. If you can build that trust and that friendship, it will make any kind of negotiations a lot easier. Two years does not give time for that.
Four years will give you a good shot at building good strong relationships overseas. We have an office in Beijing. We have been dealing with the Japanese. We have been talking global for a long time but are just moving along in that area. We are going to meet and deal with stumbling blocks here and there.
The four-year term and what was recommended earlier, four-year terms or less depending on what the people want, was a good recommendation.
One of the questions we got from all four places we had to visit was what if you elect someone for a four-year term and that person turns out to be a bad politician. Remember, we had to visit all our community members twice and that was one of the things they were concerned about. Our elections regulations include a Complaints and Appeal Board. We have removal from office for either chief or council. We have a process, a code of conduct, complaints procedures and everything in place to deal with anyone who is misleading council and the people or who is there for their personal gain or who is involved in fraud or anything to that nature. We have provisions to deal with that, so you can be removed, although it was very difficult to try to get that across to our membership. They are so used to the two-year term that, as far as I am concerned, is killing us in the industry, in the economy.
Back in 1999, when I first got into politics, we had a string of suicides in our community. It was among the youth, but also among people my age. That is when I just flew right into politics and got in there. Something had to be done, and I blamed economics. I blamed that on a lot of things and a lot of social ills that we have in our community. We need economic development, we need infrastructure, we need hope for the future of our children, and it just was not there.
We are in a little better place than we were in 1999, and we have really put our best foot forward. The suicides in our community have stopped for a number of years now, I will never ever say they will go away, so we must keep vigilant as political leaders for our community and make sure we stay on top of the economics.
One of the things that we came across was nonaboriginals running for chief. Our people did not want that, so our elections regulations say, ``If you are going to be running for chief or councillor you have to belong to one of the nine allied tribes or you are going to be a band member.
Our people did not want non-First Nations to run because they do not know the day-to-day struggles. It is the same thing with off-reserve First Nations who are also running for position. When we first took this to our people, it was the elder councillors who had served our community for years, who were the first ones who said that would bring problems to the community, because those that are living away from home do not know the day-to-day struggles the community is going through. They do not see the suffering and the pain when there is the loss of a loved one, but also the celebrations. They do not witness the closeness support we have for one another. That makes it difficult for us living at home to have someone away from home making decisions.
Our regulations now say there are three positions you can fill, if you are one of the top 12 candidates, even if you are living away from home. We do not know where that is going to lead in the future, whether the people would want to change that or not.
When we talk about the two-year term, and I am glad other have said this already, after elections, you have a one- year period in which to focus in and do your business and find out where it was from the previous councillors, and then you get into election mode.
Our community elections ripple through everything in our community, including school. Everybody is involved and interested, and sometimes it can get pretty rough. That makes it difficult sometimes to try to even try to keep your name in there at times. That is calming down now, but it is still there. If we had a four-year term, we would have three years to work together. The people would see that you can work together by the third year. Hopefully, down the road the people will see that elections no longer have to be feared, and a person does not have to be in fear in running for that position.
There are some real tough stories about what happened to our people during elections, but I have faith for our people that they can see the better side of everything and change.
If our proposal goes through, it will come into effect in 2011. However, the INAC standard is that 50 per cent plus one of the electors must vote. That is going to present a problem for us. History shows that 30 to 35 per cent of our eligible voters come out, and that is where it has been for a number of years. We have tried desperately to reach our people. W have people living in New York, Seattle, Washington, Germany, Frankfurt. We have people all over the globe, and we cannot reach these people if they do not tell us when they move. We have tried through family and others to try to get to all of our membership, and we simply cannot, unless they call us. So if this is not accepted this year and we do not get to 50 per cent plus 1, then we are going to target those people who did not vote.
How do you reach people who did not vote if they are not calling you; people are moving constantly, and some of them just do not call? To me, that requirement is ludicrous. Once the government has compiled all the information it is getting from these hearings, it should run strong ads on some of the recommendations that have come forward, and get out there a lot of the ideas that First Nations feel will help them move forward. I think that would be good coming from your side. We are doing the best that we can from our side.
Our elections regulations include a nomination period, a nomination fee, and things like that to ensure that people are serious. One year, over 70 of our membership ran for council and 30-40 people running for chief. These provisions were put in to weed out the people who were only too interested in the per diem payment or the salary.
So we will see what happens with our election on November 19. The four-year term is a good one and it is included, even though it is tough to convince some of our members. It is about building relationships and economic partners, local, regional, national and international.
One of the provisions of the Indian Act that I do have a problem with is the tie-breaking method, which is to draw a name from a hat for the chief's position. We need a process in place that will deal with the ties.
So that is what I have to share with you folks today, and I am very glad that you are here and taking in what the First Nations are telling you. We are hoping things will move not only for us, but for all First Nations from coast to coast in British Columbia and across Canada. It would be really nice to see them start moving, because First Nations will play a major role, and are right now, in the economy moving forward in this country.
The Acting Chair: Thank you very much. I have a suggestion for you on the tie. Since it obviously would be hugely prohibitive to run a new election, what would happen if the new chief was chosen by the elected councillors in a secret ballot? They are elected and they are the ones that will have to work with the chief. At the end of the day you have a secret ballot and they decide who the chief is.
Mr. Bryant: That is an excellent suggestion, I think that that would work.
The Acting Chair: I am not talking about coin tosses either.
Mr. Bryant: You now have the elected official of the people who put the trust in to make decisions for them and their future children, and they would be happy, and I think that was a good one, because the people will say, ``Okay. Well, let them decide.''
The Acting Chair: Right.
Mr. Bryant: I think that is a very good suggestion.
The Acting Chair: The second question that I have to both of you is, according to INAC policy, an alternative process may be used to provide that it is agreed upon by INAC and the First Nations. Is the department refusing to discuss an alternative process to approve the code?
Ms. Webster: My understanding, it has to go to the government for a final approval, but in my recommendation for the community is it is not their election, it is our tradition, it is our culture, it is our way. Why do we need another person's approval to do our elections?
The Acting Chair: I do not disagree with you, believe me. The second thing is that they are the ones saying you need 50 per cent plus 1 turnout. They have a difficult time in Canada getting this proportion. It would seem to me that the level required is best possible effort, even if you do not get the 50 per cent plus 1. Best possible effort is demonstrated, for example through newspapers, through your families and so on, as we heard from Chief Mundy about the incredible job done by the Ucluelet.
What you have is a number that means nothing, and so the thing that I would put to them is whether it is necessary, or whether we could have another process which would be the efforts you have undertaken to find your members. Would that be a better solution?
Ms. Webster: I think it would be good. The other matter is that people off reserve do not benefit from what the council does, because we only get funding for on-reserve members. When we call, a lot of them say, ``Why should we vote, because we do not get any benefits?''
The Acting Chair: This is an argument I have difficulty with. They get the benefit and the pride of being part of a nation. Part of the process that we are trying here is to recognize the greatness of our nations. I find it interesting and I paid close attention to Councillor Bryant when he talked about economics. At the end of the day, what you would really like is for the people who are living off your land to be back on the land and making a living and contributing. They left because that could not happen. My argument always to them is that this is part of a greater process. I know it is difficult considering what has happened to the First Nations in this country the last century and half, but I think that is probably the answer.
Ms. Webster: Okay.
The Acting Chair: That is just my point of view. When I listened over the last four years, this is where people want to be once this whole mess is brought to an end.
Mr. Bryant: One of the things that we are doing right now is that we are working with the Prince Rupert mayor, the regional district in the area. When we talk and want to do anything, we have to look at the entire region, and that region ends up including British Columbia. We try to focus in on what we need to do, but we are always aware of the whole region.
The Acting Chair: I can tell you from being mayor here, that should be very much a two-way street. It is not enough that it comes from the First Nations to the region, it has to go both ways. In the Vancouver region, for instance, we had Musqueam, Tseil-Waututh and Squamish and Tsawwassen, and one cannot prosper without the other. You cannot do business without consultation. I am ranting again. That is the third day in a row I have been ranting.
Mr. Bryant: Well, it is good ranting. When you asked whether INAC is refusing to help this process along, the answer is that we have been working closely with INAC in trying to get things going. The person who looks after our membership in our community who is our contact with INAC, says the relationship with them is all right.
The Acting Chair: That is good.
Mr. Bryant: Your suggestion about the best possible effort to put forward other than the 50 per cent plus 1, I think I would welcome that a lot more than anything else, because we have put unbelievable efforts into trying to reach our membership vote.
The Acting Chair: Okay.
Ms. Webster: The other thing is that our community endorsed at the general band membership meeting that non- Aboriginal and non-members should not be able to run for chief. The Indian Act says differently, so we would like that changed, if possible.
The Acting Chair: Senator Greene Raine.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much, Chief Webster and Councillor Bryant, for being here. We have really appreciated over the last few days hearing from so many people, and I know it is not easy for you to get here, so thank you for your efforts. I have a whole lot of questions here and I hope I do not get lost on my notes. Maybe I will start with you, Councillor Bryant. You have your ratification of your new Lax Kw'alaams election code coming up November 19?
Mr. Bryant: Yes.
Senator Raine: And you said you have a brochure on it. Would you be able to send us a copy of that brochure?
Mr. Bryant: I sure can.
Senator Raine: So we can have a look at how you have done that. That would be great. If your election code is passed, do you have any indication from INAC as to the timing of actually putting it into force?
Mr. Bryant: What we got back from INAC, because it sounds like back in Ottawa things are really rolling on this one, is that it will come into effect for the elections in 2011, so after this election we have in November.
Senator Raine: So that is at the very next possible opportunity then?
Mr. Bryant: Yes. It will come into effect in 2011.
Senator Raine: Great. Because we have heard from some different First Nations that it seems they get it passed and then nothing happens, so I am glad to hear that you have a good relationship with the INAC person on it. The other question is, could you clarify how your code deals with the openings for off reserve? Do I understand that the off- reserve members would vote on three councillor positions subject to them having to place in the top 12?
Mr. Bryant: Yes. Okay. Let's just say for the sake of argument we have 20 people running for office, and we are going to select 12. Well, if any of the off reserve are in that top 12, then they would be accepted. They have to be in the top 12.
Senator Raine: So on your voter's list then, on the ballot, would the people be identified as to whether they were living on reserve or off reserve?
Mr. Bryant: Yes. We have a section where if you are living off the reserve, your home address and everything goes in there and the position you are running for. ``Are you running for on-reserve councillor or are you running for off- reserve councillor or are you running for the mayor's position?''
Senator Raine: Okay.
Mr. Bryant: So we have all that provided in the packages that will be mailed out, so they we need to know as well.
Senator Raine: So there are positions for off reserve?
Mr. Bryant: There are three positions that we have available, but they have to make it in the top 12.
Senator Raine: And everybody votes for it?
Mr. Bryant: We are going to do our best to get 1,171 voters out this year.
Senator Raine: So a person living on reserve can vote for the off-reserve person?
Mr. Bryant: Yes.
Senator Raine: And vice versa?
Mr. Bryant: Yes. Everybody is equal across the board.
Senator Raine: Great. Can only on reserve vote for mayor, or can everyone?
Mr. Bryant: Everyone. That again is up to the people.
Senator Raine: Great. Thank you very much for clarifying that for me.
I had a question for Chief Webster, for clarification. If you get your own code and you have a code of ethics for your people, would this be a declaration by them that they adhere to this code, or would people need to certify that they agree to the code of responsibilities?
Ms. Webster: Right now we do have a code of conduct for our chief and council, and we sign a code of conduct in front of our membership after an election, so it is not recognized by INAC, but it is our own community code of conduct.
Senator Raine: Great, that is good. I appreciate you talking about how difficult it is if you get downloaded responsibilities from INAC and you do not have the resources and capability to deal with them.
Ms. Webster: Yes.
Senator Raine: Which is different really from the election codes, but again we have heard about that as a very common problem. I know in your reserve you have a lot of different reserves, so actually to govern those reserves must be extremely difficult?
Ms. Webster: It is.
Senator Raine: Could you expand on some of the unique problems that you have faced that other reserves have not faced?
Ms. Webster: Yes. We have a west side, and the only way to get over there is a two-car ferry open for certain hours only. If we have emergencies after hours, we have to call highways to open up the ferries and call the police, so it is very time-consuming. As a result, we cannot monitor that area after ten o'clock at night, so we have people driving with no licence after hours, doing things they are not supposed to do. As well, we have water systems on different reserves, some of which are in populated areas, some non-populated areas. We just have diverse needs in our community.
Senator Raine: And you do not feel that you need more councillors to deal with it though, because you are talking about going down to seven from twelve?
Ms. Webster: Well, at the council level, the political level, I think that when we have 12, it is too large, because some of them are there, but do not really want to be there. We need someone who is committed and is going to hold portfolios.
Senator Raine: Yes.
Ms. Webster: We have a lot of road issues. We have a lot of staff, but they wear many hats. We are very fortunate that we are a larger band and have more staff to address a lot of the issues, but there are some bands, smaller bands, that do not have the resources that we have.
Senator Raine: Your total band membership is 1,800?
Ms. Webster: 1,800 plus.
Senator Raine: Okay. Councillor Bryant, I was not quite sure, but your total band membership is 3,500 approximately?
Mr. Bryant: I can say 3,500 very comfortably. I have been told that it is up to 4,000, but I have not seen the numbers.
Senator Raine: You said you had 1,171 voters, so does 3,500 include the off reserve?
Mr. Bryant: Pardon me?
Senator Raine: Does that include off reserve as well?
Mr. Bryant: Yes, yes. That is our total membership.
Senator Raine: Great. Thank you.
Mr. Bryant: We considered staggered elections too and our people had recommended it. However, each election costs some $40,000. If we stay with the two-year term, that would be $80,000 that you are going to be spending in the very short time that you do not have. So that was not going to work for us and we left it.
I forgot to mention that we also have a toll free number too for our membership so that they can call us, and if they need to speak with someone from health or education or any kind of information that they are seeking.
Senator Raine: What is the percentage on reserve versus off reserve?
Mr. Bryant: I would say we have about 1,000 back home, but that changes. We have transients back and forth, all due to economics. If someone wants to get higher learning, they would definitely have to leave our community, because all we have there is up to Grade 10. In the summertime, the number shoots up, and then it goes down again.
Senator Raine: I guess it is difficult when your resources are based on the number living on reserve and then you have a responsibility to those off the reserve.
Ms. Webster: Yes. We do not get funding for off reserve.
Mr. Bryant: That is our problem too. A lot of our membership are living away and are seeking our support in many areas, but we cannot do it. That is why economic development and opportunity is so important. I hope that, that somewhere down the road, we will not have to ask for anything. I just would love that day to come along when we can help our own people out of our own pocket.
Senator Raine: Well, thank you very much both of you, it has been very informative, and I must say that Senator Campbell and I have all heard basically the same message coming pretty clear. Interestingly enough, no one is interested in a common election day, and I can see now that picking the right day for your election depends on the seasons and the timing that is best for you might be very different in Ontario or Alberta or somewhere else.
Mr. Bryant: Exactly. That was exactly going to be my comment on that common-day election. The right day depends on the seasons.
Senator Raine: I do not think anybody is in favour of a common-day.
The Acting Chair: Who cares?
Mr. Bryant: For us, summertime would be tough because the people are out gathering and there is hardly anybody home in our community.
Senator Raine: I have one more question. You mentioned it costs $40,000 to run an election. What amount of that is the cost of the electoral officer?
Mr. Bryant: I am not too sure. I know that an electoral officer is included. Our deputy electoral officer paid by the band, so she is just putting in her time. Then there are about two volunteer helpers. I really do not know what the electoral officer gets out of that. We do a lot of mailout packages to those living away from home, and that is really costly. I think it cost us in the neighbourhood of I think it was over $10,000 for copying and paperwork and everything to be mailed out. It is way up there.
Senator Raine: Yes. I can see why staggered elections is not too appealing.
Mr. Bryant: No, no. It sounds like a good idea. I have been in a staggered system before, and it sure was nice to have some people showing you the ropes when you first enter a room or business place, it was good to have that. It seemed it brought a lot more closeness to the work force, but it is too costly.
Senator Raine: Thank you.
Ms. Webster: What we have to do, normally what we do in our community is tender it out, so the cost could be a lot, depending if you have support staff or deputies involved and materials involved or whether you need supplies, so the contracts and tenders are varied.
The Acting Chair: Thank you. I want to thank both of you for coming today. Just as an aside to Councillor Bryant, I find it interesting that the head of your council will be called ``Mayor.'' When I was Mayor of Vancouver, I always wanted to be called the chief, and so I think that you may want to consider that and go back to the chief. I think that is a much stronger term than mayor.
Mr. Bryant: I had addressed that very issue, and I wanted it to stay chief, but because this is an elected process from back east, I got beat up a few times by calling our mayor chief.
The Acting Chair: I understand. They wouldn't call me chief here either.
Mr. Bryant: I made a comment in a public place, and because I am used to calling him the chief councillor, I prefer to leave it like that, because I always addressed him as elected chief councillor, but I got my ears rung.
The Acting Chair: Well, I want to thank you both for coming here such distances. I think you have to live in British Columbia to realize the distances involved, although on a map it does not look that far, when you start trying to get from point A to point B in our province, it can get very challenging. I wish you all the best in your efforts. We will be carrying these messages back to Ottawa, and there will be a report forthcoming before the end of this year that we will ensure is sent to everyone, and you can comment on it and see where we are. So I want to thank you very much for coming today.
Ms. Webster: I would like to thank you as well. As we are a larger community, I am not sure if you got input from smaller communities or not, because I do not want to be beaten up, like he says, by other communities for saying, ``Janet says this and Janet says that.''
The Acting Chair: No. We have communities that are I think 150 members and smaller.
Ms. Webster: I have got one small community beside me.
The Acting Chair: One of the things we understand, is that every community, everyone in every community is a First Nation, with different customs and different ways of dealing with their difficulties. I thank you again. We are going to move into open mike. I think our first open-mike person is sitting right there already.
Mr. Phillip Campbell: I am Chief Phillip Campbell of the Boothroyd Band, just outside Boston Bar. I just have a few comments regarding the term. I know the chief has already mentioned it, but we would like it extended up to four years or at least three. Once we get something started in our community, it usually takes more than two years. If the chief gets bumped out or a councillor gets bumped out, they have to be schooled on what we did in the first two years. That could be a real challenging problem, because we do not get enough funding as it is. Then I would have to extend our period for an extra few months. That was my main concern.
The Acting Chair: Chief, could you tell me again your First Nation?
Mr. Phillip Campbell: Boothroyd, B-O-O-T-H-R-O-Y-D, within the Lakatma Nation.
The Acting Chair: Where is that?
Mr. Phillip Campbell: Just outside Boston Bar in the Fraser Canyon.
The Acting Chair: Okay.
Ms. Webster: He is my fighting partner.
The Acting Chair: Okay. Between Boston Bar and Kanaka?
Mr. Phillip Campbell: Yes.
The Acting Chair: We have a map here.
Ms. Webster: I heard you suggest earlier that instead of breaking a tie for mayor by pulling a name out of a hat, council could probably pick the chief, because they are elected officials. Would that apply for a tie with the council members?
The Acting Chair: I think it could work, because you are dealing with elected officials. For a council with 12 members, the tie would be for the twelfth position. So that would work. It would be important to have a secret ballot, so there can be no recriminations one way or the other. Like you, I know how high emotions can get going in an election. I don't know if there is any other way. I mean traditionally what we would do is go for a recount, then we would have a big scrap in the courts on who was closer or not, and then maybe a month down the road you might have a declaration. It is pretty divisive.
Senator Raine: I was thinking about that, having read the and seen the media reports on the situation in Newfoundland, where there was a tie and they drew it out of a hat, and seeing how bitter the young fellow who did not get drawn was. So my thought was that, if 50 per cent of the people voted for one and 50 per cent voted for the other, the one who was not drawn for the mayor or the chief would then sit on council, so he is not out completely.
The Acting Chair: What happens if there are three tied though?
Senator Raine: Well, that is 30 per cent. Anyway, the most important thing is, the communities should make a decision, and this should not come down from Ottawa.
Ms. Webster: I know that there is a template on the election code that INAC had provided to the band, and does it have to be that specific?
The Acting Chair: This is one of the things that we are talking about, and INAC.
Quite frankly, until Councillor Bryant came, I never considered the implication of ``custom.'' I was looking at custom as being able to make it work for individual First Nations. It was not until we talked about the custom code that I understood the problem, and of course it makes perfect sense. We are looking back to hereditary chiefs or families or how we governed ourselves in the past versus now. My feeling is that at the end of the day each one of the First Nations has to be able to decide how they are going to go about it. We have heard various representatives, we have heard clan, we have heard family, we have heard hereditary, we have heard by specific areas within the overall First Nation, and one size does not fit all. When somebody wants to know why that is, here is the answer, because you are First Nations. It is like saying one size fits all for Europe. No.
There is a whole host of nations that are big and small, and you are no different, but it is just that it has taken us 150 years to come to that realization, because we are not that sharp. That is why one size does not fit all, because you are nations, and so you as a nation, no matter how big or how small you are, have a responsibility to come up with that answer. I am ranting again.
Mr. Bryant: I would like to share some information with my sister here for a bit here on when you asked about INAC's template for elections. They have given you that to take a look at. No, you do not have to go with anything in there. All that is is just to help you belong. One of the things that we ended up doing in our elections regulation was ask other First Nations who have done it. I mean our people were, I am not kidding, unbelievably shocked, because you are looking at Robert's Rules of Order, you are looking at human rights. We had to go through all of this to make sure that everything is in place. So I would advise anyone who is getting involved and moving forward to contact those who have done it already.
The Acting Chair: We have the expert still sitting here, Chief Mundy from Ucluelet. That is if you are looking for a template, and I do not think you are looking for a template, I think you are looking for direction in how you go about this. Ucluelet, Tsawwassen, everybody who has got a treaty has now found themselves where they have to do this and have to come to an agreement on it. I think that is incredible, that is how to go about it. You do not have to take any of that.
Mr. Bryant: We found that, working with other First Nations. We had done a lot of work, and we hit a spot where we were not moving, and it felt like things were not right. What we did was reach out to other First Nations who had done it, and they were very accommodating, very accommodating. And I thank them for their input.
The Acting Chair: I would be remiss here if I did not ask if there was anyone else who would like to come to the open mike. We are having sort of a general discussion here right now, which I think is very healthy. If you would like to come back and bring your wisdom back to the table, Chief Mundy, you are more than welcome.
Senator Raine: Chief Campbell, do you have any comments on the on reserve/off reserve residency challenges?
Mr. Phillip Campbell: Well, just one of the challenges we have is that we have about 40 per cent on reserve and 60 per cent off reserve. Of the 60 per cent off reserve, three-quarters probably do not even know where Boothroyd is, and they are still voting. They do not know, and we get calls, ``Who is this, who is this?'' That is one of the biggest problems.
Senator Raine: Yet they are voting.
Mr. Phillip Campbell: Yes.
Senator Raine: So you know where they are, but they do not understand the issues?
Mr. Phillip Campbell: Yeah.
The Acting Chair: Is it an education problem, I mean to educate people as to what is going on with your band, what is happening, what the issues are, who the people are, is that — I know again we are back talking about resources. How many members do you have?
Mr. Phillip Campbell: 246, I think.
The Acting Chair: So about 100 are on reserve?
Mr. Phillip Campbell: 110 or so.
The Acting Chair: That is difficult. I am just wondering though if it is a matter of something like a website. You have a way tougher job than any mayor of a big city, all four of you. I think in a big city, you pick up a phone and say, ``Hey, I need that pothole fixed.'' In your community you get a truck and fill the blacktop on it and fill in the pothole. I don't know how you go about it. I think the answer lies again from Councillor Bryant that you are not the only nation that is struggling with this because of your size, and I suppose the answer is some sort of a consortium that gets together and is able to offer resources from one First Nation to another, such as web site developments.
Senator Raine: We know from Councillor Bryant that his budget for an election would be approximately $40,000. I am just wondering if the rest of you know what the budget for holding an election would be?
Ms. Webster: Ours is about $25,000, and that does not include the staff time that we put in. We are saving a little bit by paying our staff, but not charging the election process.
Mr. Phillip Campbell: For our elections, probably $7,000 or 8,000 for a small community.
Ms. Mundy: For Ucluelet it is about $20,000.
Senator Raine: It is interesting to see how it varies. I think back to one of the early testimonies that we had in Williams Lake, where it was going to cost them $40,000. Then all kinds of information came forth from other bands that you did not need to bring the electoral officer up from Vancouver, you could maybe train somebody locally. So that is interesting that it does vary quite a bit. Thank you.
Mr. Bryant: On that note, that is exactly what we are doing as well. I have the utmost confidence in this lady, that she will be able to handle our elections.
The Acting Chair: I do not think you should lose sight of the fact that there are municipalities around you that you can reach out to for assistance. In fact, I believe Senator Greene Raine, instead of coming from Vancouver to Williams Lake, they were actually coming from Williams Lake out to the outlying areas.
Senator Raine: They were talking about getting together in travel associations as well to have a common group of people who are trained. That was when we asked the question originally, would a common election day make sense?
The Acting Chair: Any other comments? Well, again, on behalf of the committee, I want to thank you for coming today. It has been truly enlightening, and I have discovered places that I did not really know were there. I would also like to give credit to the staff that travels with us, the clerks and the court reporters and the interpreters, everything that you see here happening is as a result of them. It is not as a result of Senator Greene Raine, nor myself. We show up and everything is in working order and going, so a lot of credit has to go to them also.
I might add, and you can pass this on to all the other First Nations, that if you have any suggestions, any ideas on this issue or other issues, all you have to do is get in touch with the clerk of the Aboriginal Committee, and we will bring it forward and try to deal with it as quickly as possible. I think that Chief Mundy can attest that when the Senate gets moving, we can move very quickly. Thank you very much for coming today.
Ms. Webster: I just wanted to say, I have been at ministers meetings all week, and I have been going to presentations, and I feel envious of their support staff. Some of them had five support staff and clinical staff and deputies and assistant deputies, and as chiefs, we do not have all of those luxuries. We have to do things on our own, we have to be multi-tasked, multi-organized, and I am very envious of people who have support staff.
Senator Raine: In spite of all the support staff, the work gets done too slowly. Not our Senate committee, but the ministry.
The Acting Chair: Believe me, I get up every morning and thank the Lord for the support staff.
(The committee adjourned.)