PETITION SEEKS WAYS TO "IMPROVE TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILTY" OF CHIEF LOUIE AND COUNCIL
WEST KELOWNA - Westbank First Nation band members are calling on their leadership for more transparency and accountability.
The band is holding a special general meeting next week in response to a petition from members submitted in early December.
“The Westbank First Nation government is forever stating they are the most transparent and accountable first nation government out there,” petitioner Pamela Barnes said. “I personally want to see if that’s true.”
The petition asks for Chief Robert Louie and council discuss with the membership ways to improve their own transparency and accountability including initiatives that could be introduced immediately as well as possible amendments to the band’s constitution. The four council members are Mic Werstiuk, Chris Derrickson, Mike De Guevara and Brian Eli.
Westbank First Nation communications director Mandi Carroll said no councillors were immediately available for an interview about the petition.
“It’s a meeting that was called by membership and no other specifics have been provided to chief, council or administration at this time,” Carroll wrote in an email.
Barnes would not go into specifics, either about where she thought transparency was lacking or possible solutions to the problem.
“I’m not trying to stand up and be the voice of everybody. That’s the whole point of calling for a special membership meeting. This is the area where we are looking for change, for the people to have a voice, not to be dictated to,” Barnes added.
Barnes helped organize the petition to which chief and council are required to respond under the band’s constitution, however she is also critical of them.
“This is the one tool we have that can make something happen and so far, they haven’t had a really positive outcome,” she added. “Since the Hall inquiry, there are negative overtones to a petition. Some people will agree with you but will never sign a petition because they think they will be sued for libel.”
Barnes says the need for constitutional amendments is not necessarily a sign of bad government.
“After ten years of self-government, I think of all this as growing pains for us as a community. It’s all part of us growing up,” she said.
Still, Barnes said she expects action on the issue from chief and council.
“This is not something where we will be satisfied with them just listening to us speak and then us walk out of there,” she added. “If there’s no plan, then it’s a complete waste of everyone’s time.”
Westbank First Nation’s special general meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 4.
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