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Westbank band members vote on future of hospital lands

Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie.
August 10, 2015 - 4:30 PM

WESTBANK FIRST NATION - Band members will meet tomorrow night to vote on what to do about community land threatened with bank foreclosure.

The 12-acre parcel, the proposed site of a private hospital, was put up as security on a $15-million line of credit. But the band’s partners in the Lake Okanagan Wellness Centre have stopped servicing the debt, leaving them $7.9 million in debt for the property.

Band members are being offered two options; either pay the outstanding debt from band corporate operations or form a new holding company that would borrow funds from a band business account as well as draw from band operations.

However, several band members have said they are not satisfied with the options and the limited time — from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. — to cast their ballots.

"I feel this vote is being forced on us as WFN members. I feel that being a member off reserve does not give myself and others the equal right to vote tomorrow, especially when the polls are only open for one hour,” band member Roxanne Lindley said, adding her criticism of the troubled hospital project.

"I am disappointed that there were only two options; both involve millions of dollars being spent on debt recovery under the guise of protecting and getting our land back.”

Lindley urged other band members to sign an online petition calling for another special meeting on the hospital project where other options would be discussed and more time would be allowed so off-reserve band members can vote.

Chief Robert Louie did not respond to request for an interview about the meeting but has said previously the hospital project will be reviewed by membership over the next year and will be one of the main issues in band elections, scheduled for August 2016.

But Lindley said she feels the band needs to get help with its entire corporate development program, not just the hospital project, so as to avoid these situations in the future.

“If we are to succeed in the corporate world and game then we need to have professionals who have the experience, the successful background, the sharp, keen sense of the future. We are a government, the council are elected leaders — there is a huge difference between the two.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infonews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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