September 15, 2016 - 2:30 PM
WESTBANK FIRST NATION - Former Westbank chief Ron Derrickson says he’s endorsing Roxanne Lindley for chief because she’s the only candidate who will listen to band members.
“To solve all these problems, all you have to do is one thing; listen,” Derrickson says, fresh from casting his vote during today’s, Sept. 15, band elections.
“These guys (current chief and council) they’ve stopped listening. They think they know it better than everybody. This is not a corporation, it’s an Indian village, a tribe.”
The former chief says the band council, in some ways, needs to become more like Kelowna council.
“They set the policy and let the experts do it from there,” he says. “These guys set the policy and then try to enact it themselves and it’s not working.”
Incumbent chief Robert Louie is fighting for another three-year term. Incumbent councillors Mic De Guevera, Chris Derrickson and Mike Werstiuk are also seeking reelection, along with 12 other candidates. All have been tied to the failed private hospital project
Derrickson was a surprise candidate for the 2016 band election but it was even more of a surprise for band members when Derrickson stood up at the all candidates forum last week, withdrew his nomination and endorsed Lindley.
She is the daughter of the band’s first chief, John Norman Lindley, and shares little of Derrickson’s business background, but he says that shouldn’t matter if she surrounds herself with the right people.
“When I was first elected chief in 1986, I was a cattle rancher. I knew a little bit about business but not a lot, so I listened to the people that did,” he adds. “She’s the daughter of our first chief, she’s well respected. She’s also financially independent, so the government will not be able to buy her off."
His advice to Lindley, if she wins tonight, or whoever sits in the chief’s chair, is to create a blue-ribbon panel of local business people, native and non-native, as an advisory group to council.
“It’s not the colour of your skin but what you can offer,” he says. “There’s lots of people in this town who are sympathetic to natives and would be happy to help.”
Considerable personal enmity exists between Derrickson and Louie who first clashed in the 1980s when Louie and a group of band members tried to have him removed from office for alleged financial irregularities.
He was subject to several provincial enquiries and a federal royal commission but was cleared off all allegations. He also won a large defamation suit lawsuit against the group for statements they had made to local media.
Still, Derrickson does not think Louie is all bad.
“He stinks at business but in some of aspects of the self-government agreement he’s done a pretty good job. He’s done a good job with schooling, especially the language, and I can tell from my own grandson.”
Despite his reputation as a hard-nosed business man, Derrickson says he’s mellowed with age and now thinks ideas like limiting the number of terms for chief and council would eliminate “career” chiefs.
“When you’re around too long you sometimes end up being a hang-around-the-fort Indian, too close to power for too long,” he says. “I think some of them have to wear that badge.”
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