The chief and council of the Williams Lake Indian Band have endorsed Kerry Cook for a second term as mayor in this November’s municipal election.
In a prepared statement Chief Ann Louie stated that, “We feel that Mayor Cook has made a strong effort to build relationships with First Nations and has shown good leadership during her term of mayor.”
Contacted Monday Louie confirmed it was chief and council making the endorsement but that band members were also “aware of the work that she’s (Cook’s) done.”
In her statement, Louie went on to say that the First Nation’s experience with other councils in the past has not been “similarly positive.”
“Previous mayors have made comments about economics and First nations leadership which are inaccurate and demonstrate a lack of understanding and respect for First Nations,” she said.
Although reluctant to provide further details, Louie said that comment was directed at comments made by former mayor Walt Cobb. For his part, Cobb said his comments made to a First Nations broadcaster to which he believed Louie was referring were taken out of context.
“I made a comment about some leaders and I didn’t necessarily indicate it was First Nations’ leaders because that same shoe fits for local politicians and it was about a lack of work and wanting to work and they took it personally. That was not the intent but there’s nothing you can do about that,” Cobb said, adding, “It was a general statement.”
Louie was a band councillor when mayoral candidate Scott Nelson was mayor but she said she didn’t have personal dealings with him.
She says City council under Cook has been inclusive of First Nations people. She says that is reflected in a joint partnership between the City and the band on a community forest plan, with issues of crime, and through the development of the community’s official community plan.
Louie also added she has worked with Cook as part of the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition.
As for why the WLIB chose to endorse any candidate when members living in that First Nations community can’t vote for mayor and council as they don’t live in city limits, Louie said there are plenty of First Nations living within the city boundary who can vote. She added, “If you don’t endorse a candidate you’re not included in anything.”
Mayoral candidate Scott Nelson said under his administration (2005-2008) council had a dialogue with First Nations on issues including crime. For her part, Mayor Kerry Cook, said she was pleased with the endorsement.
“I have enjoyed working with Chief Ann on a number of issues. … I think it’s important to have strong working relationships with all community partners and leaders and I look forward to working with her in the future.”