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Lucinda Phillips re-elected chief in Lil'wat vote

Policy referendums passed bringing change to membership and development



The Lil'wat Nation returned Chief Lucinda Phillips to office, elected 12 councillors and passed two major policy referendums covering citizenship and elections.

A total of 586 people voted in the chief ballot in the election on March 9, 19 fewer than the 605 who voted in the last election in 2011.

The councillors elected for new terms are Joshua Ryan Anderson, Vaughan Gabriel, Chris Irving, Joanne John, Lois Joseph (Mamaya7), Maxine Joseph-Bruce, Dean Mitchel Nelson, Felicite V. Nelson, Nadine Pascal, Tara Smith, Rosemary Stager and Alphonse (Eyes) Wallace.

"It's very exciting. I'm excited to continue my term; I'm excited to work with my council team. We've got three new members at the table, so we've pretty much got the same group, which is nice. Consistency is always good," Phillips said in an interview.

"I'm very excited to get back on the horse and away we go."

Two referendums were also passed.

The first changes the Lil'wat's Membership Code, first passed in 1987, into a Citizenship Code, redefining who can be a member of the community. It was adopted with 431 in favour, 143 against.

The Citizenship Code became immediately binding after voters passed it.

The second, a new Election Code, will remove the community's election rules from the Indian Act and allow the Lil'wat leadership to implement the results of a 2007 survey of members. It was adopted with 393 in favour, 178 against.

Phillips explained that the Election Code details would now be sent to the federal government for approval and if approved would be adopted in time for the next Lil'wat election in 2015. Among other things, the code calls for a two-chief system, longer terms for council, changes to eligibility criteria for candidates and more transparent rules.

"Those are changes the community put forward. Right now I'm here for two years and that is under the INAC (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) system," Phillips said.

The chief said there were several new priorities coming forward for the new term-of-office. The Upper Lillooet Hydro project was recently approved and Phillips said she hoped to see members of the community working on its construction. Sports field development is now complete, she said, and she wanted to ensure they were well used.

Other ongoing projects include the renewal of Whistler Blackcomb's tenure application, and finalizing some of the In-SHUCK-ch treaty discussions.

"And within a month I will be going to Ottawa to sign documents and start working on the First Nations land management regime. It's a two-year process, so I am really excited not only to develop our own Land Code, but the details within that project require a lot of community input, which I am looking forward to," Phillips said.

The outcome of the Land Code would be to allow the Lil'wat to determine how to best use reserve lands themselves without the involvement of the federal government.

"We determine how to use reserve lands economically, environmentally. Right now, if I want to build a gas station or a store I have to go to INAC and ask for their approval. Once we develop the code, with the people's input and support, we will be able to put our own laws in place for environmental, buildings, homes. It gives us back that control," Phillips said.

Phillips said there had been 1,401 eligible voters, and she would have liked to have seen a higher turnout. She hoped this next term to improve the way Lil'wat members engage in community projects and votes.

"That just means I'm not doing my job in getting people out and I need to do a lot more communication with the members and get them more involved. That's one of the reasons I am excited by the Land Code. It is really driven around the community being engaged," she said.

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