Kitsumkalum Chief Don Roberts secures seventh term, new councillor wins seat

Treaty, coastal land recognition, new infrastructure among ongoing projects

Kitsumkalum chief councillor Donald Roberts was voted in for a seventh two-year term in band elections held Feb. 21.

Roberts received 122 votes, besting Troy Alexander Sam who received 70 votes and Janice Pearl Robinson who received 34.

Seven band councillors were also elected – Cynthia Bohn received 162 votes, Lisa Wesley who collected 156 votes, Kathy Wesley who had 142 votes, Kenny Brown who received 139 votes, newcomer Aaron Horner with 136 votes, and Wayne Bolton who got 128 votes. Troy Sam may have lost the run for chief, but won a seat on council with 118 votes.

Others who ran but who didn’t get elected were Richard Armin Musterer who had 40 votes; Neil Okabe with 84; Tracy Selina Margret Sam, 85; Charlene Webb with 59; and James Webb, 73.

Altogether, 228 votes were cast for chief and council, 36 per cent of 650 eligible voters. This is slightly lower than 2017 election cycle with 233 votes cast.

READ MORE: New, returning candidates for Kitsumkalum band elections

Chief Don Roberts thanked voters and detailed some of what’s to come for Kitsumkalum.

“I want to thank all the people that trusted me to carry another two terms,” he says. “I’m looking at a strong healthy community, and we can hold ourselves in the economic world.”

Roberts will continue as chief councillor as the Kitsumkalum First Nation and the Kitselas pursue final land claims and governance treaty with federal, provincial and local governments.

They are currently in Stage 5, the last stage of negotiations. The parties are completing technical work for separate land and capital transfer proposals and economic development.

“Kitsumkalum Chief has been working with treaty to ensure all territories are included, Skeena River and Marine Coast of the Tsimshian Peninsula,” Roberts wrote in his candidate statement.

There were concerns raised that Kitsumkalum members were left out of discussions, and Roberts says there are opportunities to participate in open meetings discussing the constitution, treaty and land codes throughout the year.

“There are messages out there that treaty hasn’t been communicating with the people, but there has been a lot of communications in that [Community Hall], a lot of information has been sent out,” he says. “Those things aren’t held in secret. They are open meetings.”

Negotiations for developing Kitsumkalum’s Land Code are still underway and could be adopted to all lands and treaty lands, putting all decisions with Kitsumkalum instead of the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA). A community vote is scheduled this spring.

The process to approve the Kitsumkalum Tsimshian Constitution dealing with lands, heredity system, community, the law of the lands and treaty process is underway.

“These policies are some key areas going into self-government structure protect us both ways fair, rather than being self-centred,” Roberts wrote.

Paving preparation for streets, parking lots, and driveways will begin this spring and is expected to finish by this fall. It will be done using money bargained from LNG operations, and paving will be done in house to save dollars with the corporation, Roberts wrote.

On Nov. 23, 2018 Kitsumkalum signed an agreement with LNG Canada with hopes of gaining revenue and job opportunities to benefit the Nation’s younger generations.

“Most First Nations have signed LNG agreements all around Kitsumkalum with a lot of gain and revenue and job opportunities,” Roberts wrote. “For the better interest of Kitsumkalum younger generations and people today it would be irresponsible…to ignore now.”

The band council is working on a long-term agreement with CN Rail that would expand into “many other opportunities” with the rock quarry just west of Terrace. An agreement was first signed between the two in 2011, allowing CN to purchase bedrock from Kitsumkalum for the company’s railways.

Robert says Kitsumkalum will also continue to push the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) to complete a long-range opportunity plan from their $2 million economic agreement reached in 2011 for developments on Kitsumkalum coastal territories.

The band council will also continue negotiations with the federal government to gain back ancient coastal villages at Casey Point, Barrett Rock and Watson Island Dzagaedil’s Kitsumkalum.

“Once Kitsumkalum gets the recondition of our coastal and PRPA territories then we will be in a real good economic position and continuous revenue share plan for many years,” Roberts wrote.

“We have been pounding on [PRPA’s] door, they know we are coming to deal with them.”

According to a 2017 Kitsumkalum Major Projects update, the band says PRPA and Transport Canada have excluded Kitsumkalum from benefits of PRPA developments by “failing to recognize us as a Tsimshian Nation with aboriginal title and rights to the coast.”

Other projects include more housing on reserve lands using funding from BC Housing and future plans with the DIA include building a new water tower higher up the mountain to accommodate the new housing division.

Discussions for Kitsumkalum’s new school are in progress with the DIA. The school would be built across the street from the Tempo Gas Station.

Plans for Kitsumkalum’s new office complex on the Billy Bong yard across the Kitsumkalum River are being bargained with provincial money. Planning will begin once funding is secured.

Also in negotiations is Kitsumkalum’s harvesting rights along the Tsimshian Coast which will be dealt with through the treaty process or “if forced, we will deal with in Canada Courts,” Roberts wrote.

There was no all-candidates forum this year because”due to circumstances out of our control” ‘Na Aksa Gyilak’yoo School was unable to host.

Though electoral officer Loreen Suhr says some First Nation bands, including Kitsumkalum, are not required to host a forum but can make changes to make it mandatory within the First Nation’s Custom Election Code.

Don Roberts Elections 2019 by on Scribd

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