By Alex Rinfret–The upcoming Gwaii Trust election has become a little more controversial than usual.
Voters in Sandspit and in Central Graham Island (Port Clements and Tlell) will be going to the polls Nov. 25 to choose a representative on the trust for the next two years.
The Sandspit campaign, which has longtime representative Warren Foster running against Graham Evenson, appears to be proceeding smoothly. But controversy is swirling around the Central Graham Island race.
Four candidates have come forward to seek the seat: incumbent Delina Petit Pas, her alternate Claudette Lavoie, Su-san Brown, and Jim Abbott. Ms Petit Pas is a resident of Port Clements; the other three candidates live in Tlell.
Now some Tlell residents are saying that Ms Petit Pas should not have been allowed to run, because of a little-known agreement signed by the village of Port Clements and Tlell community representatives in the year 2000.
According to that agreement, representation is supposed to alternate between a Port Clements resident and a resident who lives outside the village boundaries. The agreement also allows that if no nominations come forward from the area whose turn it is to produce the director, the incumbent director may run.
Tlell residents Bill Mackay, John Burrill and Jean Kalamarz, along with former Gwaii Trust director Jack Miller, described their problem to Port Clements council members Monday night (Nov. 6), saying that Ms Petit Pas’s name should not be on the ballot and asking why Port wasn’t honouring the agreement.
Mayor Cory Delves responded that the council at the time may have signed the agreement, but never formalized it in any way. It was never brought to the public and no bylaw was ever passed regarding it.
Deputy clerk Heather Nelson-Smith pointed out that even if Port did pass a bylaw, it would have no effect on the election, which is governed by the Gwaii Trust bylaws. Those bylaws do not mention anything about the Central Graham Island representation alternating between Port and the rural area.
“At this late stage of the game, I really don’t know what council can do,” Mr. Delves told the Tlell delegation. “For this time around I don’t see any easy solutions.”
Mr. Mackay said Tlell residents have asked Ms Petit Pas to withdraw her name, although that at this date it is no longer possible for a candidate to withdraw. He told council that maybe Port residents should pressure her to stop campaigning, and that it should become “common knowledge” that she had run despite the agreement.
Councillor Casey Decock asked whether Ms Petit Pas had been informed that her candidacy would be discussed at the meeting, and said she wanted to hear from her.
“I don’t feel comfortable with going against somebody without having them here to explain their position,” Ms Decock said.
The Gwaii Trust Society oversees a large trust fund and hands out millions of dollars worth of grants to projects and groups on the islands every year. It was set up in the mid-1990s. The society is made up of eight directors representing the islands communities and a chair appointed by the Council of the Haida Nation. Only the Central Graham Island and Sandspit directors are elected. The other six directors are appointed by the communities they represent.
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