By Alex Rinfret–Gwaii Trust director Delina Petit Pas says she has every right to run for re-election, despite complaints from some Tlell residents.
“I believe in the democratic process, and due process,” Ms Petit Pas said on Friday (Nov. 10). “I’m within my perfect right to run in an election, to campaign, to represent Central Graham Island.”
Ms Petit Pas was responding to a group of four rural residents who said earlier this week that the Central Graham Island seat is supposed to be held by a Port resident one term, then a resident from outside Port in the next term.
Three Tlell residents are running in the Nov. 25 election – Jim Abbott, Su-san Brown and Claudette Lavoie – as well as Ms Petit Pas, so voters will have a choice of four candidates.
However, a few Tlell residents are pointing to an agreement signed between village of Port Clements representatives and Tlell and rural area representatives in 2000 which states that the Central Graham Island Gwaii Trust seat will alternate between Port and the rural area. Bill Mackay, John Burrill and Jean Kalamarz all appeared at the Nov. 6 Port council meeting to ask why Ms Petit Pas is running, in apparent contradiction to this agreement.
However, Ms Petit Pas and others point out that this agreement was never further ratified, and is not part of the Gwaii Trust bylaws governing how the director will be chosen. According to the Gwaii Trust, the process of choosing the Central Graham Island director is the same as that set out in BC legislation for the election of an electoral area director.
Ms Petit Pas said she was part of the community discussions six years ago when the Central Graham Island seat was being set up, and that alternating representation was not an issue brought up by the public.
“The community said anybody from Central Graham Island can come forward and be elected,” she said. “Certainly, there’s been a lot of misunderstanding.”
Ms Petit Pas said she had absolutely no idea that anyone had an objection to her running as a candidate, and that Mr. Mackay, who spoke to Port council about the matter and has also written to regional district director Ian Hetman, has never spoken to her about it.
“I think what I have done, I have done with integrity,” Ms Petit Pas said, adding that she had no knowledge of Mr. Mackay’s objections until reading about them in the Nov. 9 Observer.
She said she decided to run again because she has enjoyed being a director for the past two years and thinks she has done a good job. The experience she gained in her first term will serve residents well if she is elected again, she said.
She also pointed out that the Port and Tlell communities have many common interests, and that it seems short-sighted to think that a Port resident could not do as well at representing Tlell, simply on the basis of where they live.
Ms Petit Pas also repeatedly said that she does not want this to become a negative issue, and that she has nothing negative to say about anyone involved.
“I do want good will to prevail,” she said. “My focus is to foster a community spirit, to have good feelings for Central Graham Island residents.”
Ms Petit Pas will be making a statement at next Monday’s council meeting in Port Clements (Nov. 20).
A bit of background: the Central Graham Island director represents the area between Nadu Road and Tlell (the area corresponds roughly to the 557 telephone exchange) on the Gwaii Trust board, which has a total of eight directors. Although the Gwaii Trust was set up in 1995, the Central Graham Island seat was formed in 2000 when the board was reorganized to give Queen Charlotte its own director.
The Central Graham Island election does not usually attract much attention, and the alternating representation issue has never come up before. Ms Petit Pas was acclaimed after she was the only candidate to come forward in 2004. In the term before that the seat was held by Jack Miller, who was acclaimed in 2002. Mr. Miller lives in what many people would consider part of Port Clements, but he is technically outside the village boundaries, so his acclamation did not contravene the 2000 agreement.
The first election for this seat, held in November 2000, attracted five candidates, one from Tlell and four from Port. Exactly twice as many people voted in Port as in Tlell. Port resident Jukka Efraimsson won that election with significant support from Tlell voters.
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