Tl’etinqox-t’in (Anaham) Chief and Tsilhqot’in National Government chair Joe Alphonse has endorsed NDP candidate Charlie Wyse and said the endorsement represents all the chiefs in the TNG.
Last week Alphonse and Yunesit’in (Stone) Chief Russell Myers-Ross met with NDP leader Adrian Dix over a conference call.
“I told him I was disappointed he wasn’t here,” Alphonse said.
“We talked about some issues and I think we were still holding out, but our First Nations governance process is like any other process. We have to meet with our membership. Sometimes it’s not the fastest, so we’re feeling quite thrilled we could come to a decision on who to support.”
Citing improved health care and education as some of the key priorities, he said many First Nations people end up in emergency and hospitals.
“The health care we have in B.C. right now is scary. We’d like to see better health care for our membership. We want to see improved education. Fifty per cent of our people live off reserve and they are in the school systems.”
A system, he said, is in turmoil.
“We live in the Cariboo-Chilcotin and we have some pretty rough winters. You look at road conditions and things like that. These are obvious things people should see and remember.”
Specific to his home community of Anaham and First Nations is the management of natural resources and wildlife.
“We depend on that. That’s food on our table.”
A lot of First Nations families live on $10,000 a year, he added.
“You’ll never hear them complain. You may have government workers complain about their pensions and salaries, yet our members out there are content. As long as they can garden, hunt the moose that used to be in our woods, and there are salmon in the rivers they are happy and can live an independent life.”
Under the Liberals, he suggested, those resources are disappearing.
Last fall First Nations threatened to put up a roadblock to shut hunting down because of the government’s “failure to protect wildlife in his protection area,” he said.
“When you’ve got other groups in control of what another level of government is supposed to take care of, there’s a problem.”
“I like the NDP views on the environment because they resemble First Nations values the closest. That’s why we want to show our support and endorsement to the NDP.
“We want an improved voice in Victoria and we feel Charlie is the best candidate to voice our concerns.”
Aside from endorsing the NDP Alphonse encouraged all First Nations to “get out and vote.”
“We can tell our members who we’re endorsing, but at the end of the day, it’s the individual’s right to vote how they want.”
“When it’s all said and done, the most important thing for the whole Cariboo-Chilcotin riding, not only First Nations, is to vote. The level of First Nations turning out to vote hasn’t been to the level that we want it to be.”
Alphonse said complaining about “that non-Native person” over there or that big corporation, but when it’s all said and done, his one vote is equal to anybody else’s one vote.
There are a polling stations in the various First Nations communities, Alphonse said.
“I have one on my reserve. There was a training course on elections last week in my community and members throughout the Chilcotin — native and non-Native were there. A lot of these people are dedicated and work year after year.”
It’s a chance opportunity on May 14, he said, adding the bands will provide transportation for people to vote if needed.
“If we made that commitment the last election I don’t think the Liberal party would have made it in. Every vote counts. That’s why we’re making a push this election.”