There are nine people wishing to fill the shoes left vacant after the passing of Nelson Leeson last year. Nine candidates, all wanting the title of President of the Nisga’a nation, the Nisga’a Lisims Government. On Saturday, March 13th, they all gathered at the Terrace Nisga’a Hall to speak directly to their people in an effort to convince them to cast their vote, their way. Substance was not the main issue discussed or shared, it was primarily history and culture; the wrongs of the past and the potential of the future. A few candidates spoke about the lack of disclosure and the perceived secrecy surrounding the affairs of the Nisga’a Lisims Government but no one directly mentioned the recent court case involving some alleged misappropriation of funds. The finances however, was one of the main topics of conversation as some described a 5.7 million dollar surplus in the bank. It would appear the Nisga’a have plenty of money to work with.
It was this issue that had the talk revolving around the suffering and hardship of their people. The two candidates who have been, and still are involved in the Government; Mitch Stevens and Kevin McKay argued that there was money for their people to access; they just needed to put together an appropriate business plan. McKay expressed visions of working in the National scene on modern Land claims agreements. He also states he wants to improve communications between the Nisga’a people and their governments and goes on to claim he has been deeply involved in the Government for 30 years. Stevens writes he has 20 years of political experience and also claims to want to communicate clearly stating he has ‘vast knowledge’ of the Nisga’a finances having co-chaired the finance committee. He spoke at length about trusting the Nisga’a Administrative staff to do their jobs.
Joseph Gosnell Jr. offers himself up for the Presidency and also referred to finances but with an entirely new take on competency. He offers his 7 years of Commercial Banking experience with the Royal Bank and the Bank of Montreal and his 9 years of Executive Management and First Nations Governance and Administration. He immediately corrected Stevens assertion that the Nisga’a Constitution states the President must speak the Nisga’a tongue. He quoted the Constitution reading from section 4 page 7, ‘The Nisga’a Government must respect and encourage the use of the Nisga’a language and the practice of the Nisga’a culture’.
“I wanted to make that very clear because that’s a strong statement to make and if you’re traveling within our territory and other territories I think that’s a misconception, so I want to make that very clear.” Gosnell then took on Stevens’s statement about trusting the administrative staff asking if they debate and challenge their decisions, later adding, “There is no such thing as an Urban Nisga’a, there is only one Nisga’a. You can’t categorize me or you because you live in Prince Rupert, Terrace, Vancouver or Prince George.”
Eric Nyce and Francis Stanley also took exception to the claim by Stevens that speaking the Nisga’a language was a requirement to hold office. Nyce claimed it wasn’t the fault of the people for not learning the language; it was something that was forbidden. He stated being fluent would require the elders and matriarchs to use it and share it with the younger generations, not just teaching the basics in school as he was exposed to.
Harry Nyce Sr., Herbert Morven, Arthur Azak, Paul Mercer and Stanley all spoke about the need for education, their connection to the community, the future of the Nation and most spoke about spirituality but none, except Eric Nyce, addressed the hard physical reality to the difficulties being faced by the common Nisga’a Citizen.
Nyce stated there was no infrastructure or land available for the Nisga’a to develop a business. He said they could now mortgage their homes, and even pool their resources together, but no community had land available or infrastructure for an individual to start a business. He stated he visited every community and inquired about getting land to start a restaurant business and none was available.
“I went to all four communities, none of them have land, none of them have the infrastructure there to create a business yet we pass legislation for all of you to mortgage your home […] to create a business you will not be able to.”
Nyce described how he left and got his engineering degree. He has since worked on the design, construction and infrastructure for many projects in Victoria and currently works for the District of Kitimat on their capital projects. He wants to bring this skill in the Nass Valley. He spoke about the business infrastructure and how home ownership should not be the only opportunity. He also addressed the lack of rental housing.
“Why do we not have that? Twenty years ago the BC government invested in First Nations housing in a lot of communities. Prince Rupert, Terrace, a lot of you live in them right now. […] We have not made an investment to our people to show that we want them to come back and to bring their knowledge and their skills back to our nation, and that is what I want to do.” He told the Nisga’a gathered to listen, “I want to give each and everyone of you the opportunity to move home if you choose so; the opportunity to create a business if you choose so. But I don’t want to you all to feel like there is no place for you on our lands like there is no place for me.”
Stevens spoke about money being available but drew references to the Nisga’a communities outside of the Nass stating he was appalled at them saying they have access to the funds admitting “those places have infrastructure yet none of our locals own anything in those municipalities and City’s.”
“You should own a hotel in Terrace, Prince Rupert, Vancouver.” he proclaimed as he hit his fist to the table, “You should own a casino!” he exclaimed. “There is money there. You can’t say we didn’t put money aside. […] but only $300,000 of that money was accessed by our people.”
Stevens then spoke about the water and how valuable it was using the quantity of water Vancouver uses as a comparison to the volume running in the Nass. “That’s millions and millions of dollars of water running into the salt chuck.” He did not explain what he meant by this reference, whether or not there was a plan or an opportunity to sell the water in the Nass River.
Early voting (Advance Polls) begin tomorrow March 18th and the main voting day is March 25th.
Videos of every presentation can be viewed at the following link.Each Candidate separately, the Nisga’a Language presentations separately, and the Question and Answer session separately all by following this link.
Arthur Roy Azak
Joseph Gosnell Jr.
H. Mitchell Stevens
Question and answer session. The candidates responded to a series of questions, initially as a ‘first come, first served’ manner, then as a structured 3 minute reply to all questions put forward by the audience.
Five Candidates speak the Nisga’a language, and one video features only Nisga’a.
tallied it up.....