Friday, November 14, 2014

Local Politics

Stó:lō a 'Sleeping Giant'

Gardner talks about lack of First Nations in municipal politics

Staff/Voice file photo


ast year, Stó:lō elder Eddie Gardner, expressed dismay with local journalists and reporters, saying he'd lost faith in their ability to get the correct story out. At that time, I suggested he take control of the information and send out his own releases instead of relying on reporters.


The same with local politics. How can non-Natives on city council fully understand Stó:lō First Nations' issues?


I asked Gardner at the all-candidates meeting last week about the apparent lack of interest from Stó:lō in local politics.


"I don't think that it's good in terms of a reflection of the population that the city of Chilliwack has. I think that we absolutely need somebody on there. There's definitely big room for more First Nations involvement in municipal politics here," he said.


On another occasion last year, I asked Gardner if he was interested in running in the elections. He made no comment then. So, I asked him again at the all-candidates meeting if he would be interested in running in four years.


"Four years is a long time. I don't think I would run for politics. I would certainly campaign for a Stó:lō person to run for office," said Gardner earnestly. "The reason why I'd do that is not because I feel that I have more influence just as a person who is not involved in any of the politics, but I am free to express what I need to express, and I do that best as an independent person uncontrolled by any of the institutions that are around."


He's not interested in being involved with Stó:lō government either.


"I wouldn't run for the Stó:lō First Nations. I just want to have a true voice," he said.


When asked at the forum if he knew of any Stó:lō people who may be interested in running, Gardner called it a bit of a "sleeping giant."


"I think the more that we see the issues surface on municipal government and Stó:lō government relationships, I think that the more people are becoming aware of the importance of getting involved, so we'll see how that shapes up over the next four years," he explained. "We're at a turning point in a lot of issues that have a big impact on the environment, on our fish, on our sacred water and municipal governments have an important role with this as well as the Stó:lō governments. There's a greater importance of them working together and you can see that with Tsleil-Waututh First Nations in Burnaby and the municipality against Kinder Morgan and I think that's very a very healthy and good relationship. There's a lot of unanswered issues and I think the City of Chilliwack is glad to hear that they've (City of Burnaby) put some hard questions to them and they (Kinder Morgan) haven't really responded appropriately yet."


Gardner is against any transportation of bitumen from Alberta and says it needs to be stopped whether via rail or by pipeline


"I think global warming is very much on people's minds today and the best way to save us from an unbearable and horrible living condition... we have to turn to a renewable energy and we've got to work with everyone to do that."


On the question to the Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz: if she recognized the unceded territory of the Stolo Nation, Gardner said she didn't say that she would and just talked about the importance of having good relations. The other two candidates running for mayor did at the meeting (Hampton Inn mayoral debate).


"None of them really had acknowledged the unceded territory of the Stolo people in their introductory remarks. Candidate Brigida Crosbie did in one of the questions about developing relations with First Nations. I think it's really critical and it's incumbent upon the Stó:lō people, the First Nations people in their territory to take up interest and get involved in municipal politics, because we're seeing the importance of this as we see what happens with things like the trade agreements (FIPPA) that are being negotiated, and how they impact municipalities with Kinder Morgan, all the issues surrounding that, and what can the municipality can do to ensure to say that' "What are we doing about trying to change, what good partnership need to be solidified genuinely between First Nations and the municipal government in Chilliwack?"


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