Splatsin First Nation demonstration calls for new election

Click to play video: 'Splatsin demonstration calls for new election'
Splatsin demonstration calls for new election
WATCH: Splatsin community members are pushing for fresh elections for their chief and council. At a demonstration, the group argued the current leadership is too divided and unable to move the community forward. The chief acknowledges there are divisions but says he was elected on a change mandate – Nov 15, 2022

Some Splatsin community members are pushing for fresh elections for their chief and council.

At a demonstration this week, community members argued the current leadership of the First Nation is too divided and unable to move the community forward.

The chief acknowledges there are divisions in the community, which is located near Enderby, B.C., but says he was elected on a mandate for change.

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In an effort to draw attention to the calls for a new election for the entire council, Monday’s protest involved demonstrators walking into a meeting between Splatsin council and the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Demonstrators called for the meeting to be postponed, which it was.

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“The people’s voice needs to be heard. The people are not comfortable. They are not feeling safe with the current leadership. There are internal battles going on and have been going on for a minimum of 10 months,” said Splatsin community member Setatkwa Christian, who helped lead the protest.

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Christian said her concerns with the current council include nepotism and the council’s “inability to work together to move Splatsin forward in a good and positive way.”

The demonstrators argued they only took the serious step of interrupting the meeting after other efforts, including a non-confidence vote at a community meeting, failed to lead to a fresh election.

“The motion [at the community meeting] was for the entire council to step down. That motion was passed. Subsequent to that there was a chief and council meeting where the motion for re-election was called and that motion was tabled…It was tabled until two days afterward. At that meeting again, without justification, that motion was tabled again,” said Splatsin community member Gloria Morgan.

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If it did go to a council vote, a motion for a new election is likely to pass.

The majority of councillors are supporting the call for a new election including sub-chief Red Water Stone Woman Sabrina Vergata.

Vergata said she is in favour of a new election even though it would put her spot on council in jeopardy because she cares about her community.

“This is something that our people need. We are not doing what we need to do as chief and council,” Vergata said.

“We support our community and we want to listen to our members.”

For his part, the chief says only a fraction of the electorate attended the community meeting where the non-confidence vote occurred and he plans to pursue a referendum to see if a new vote is really what the wider community wants.

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“There were 21 people in-person and 19 online. There was no verification process of those 19 people if they were valid voters so I really only have the voice of 21 people…I would rather have a referendum process where all 400-plus voters are asked if that is what they want,” said Chief Doug Thomas.

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In January, Thomas was narrowly elected chief beating out the community’s long-time leader by only a small margin.

Thomas said the community has been divided on his leadership “since day one.”

“I was elected on change and nepotism is definitely one of the things I wanted to change. I think it is not happening in the manner that some people want. It is not what they expect of change. It is not the kind of change that they wanted to see and I think that is where the pushback comes from,” Thomas said.

Demonstrators plan to create a petition to push for new elections, while the chief will be pursuing a referendum on a new vote.

The current council term doesn’t expire till 2026.

Click to play video: 'Former seven-term Splatsin Kúkpi7 (Chief) Wayne Christian talks future, legacy'
Former seven-term Splatsin Kúkpi7 (Chief) Wayne Christian talks future, legacy

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