GULL BAY FIRST NATION – With the announcement of the results of yesterday’s voting by community members to elect a Chief and Council for their Nation’s government, Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek – Gull Bay First Nation (GBFN) has made the transition to the new First Nations Elections Act, which features benefits including a four-year term of office, from the two-year term outlined in the Indian Act election process.
By a margin of 332 to 163, Chief Wilfred King handily defeated Miles Nowegijick, who was previously Chief in Gull Bay from December 2010 through January 2013. King was not only very pleased to receive a mandate for himself from his People but their support was also extended to include all ten of his endorsed candidates for Council who overwhelmed their challengers by a healthy margin.
King remains humbled by his election victory and is eager to continue to lead his community in what he describes could prove to be the most pivotal time in the Nation’s modern history.
“I am excited for the opportunity to have a term in office in which Council can finally make serious headway against challenges we currently face. A two-year term doesn’t provide enough time to advocate or offer enough security to funders to initiate the types of infrastructure projects that our Nation so desperately needs – little lone actually see it through development and completion. I think that this obstacle is something that the federal government has effectively used in continuing to foster an environment that suppresses First Nation communities from becoming more self-sufficient. Even if a Nation has internal capacity, in so far as having qualified and/or experienced staff amongst their membership to move critical business forward, a shortened mandate is prohibitive to successfully conducting all of the requirements associated with managing the bureaucracy and obtaining the necessary approvals. It is only righteous and just that First Nations be permitted to operate in the same fashion as their municipal, provincial and federal counterparts.”
By defending the borders of GBFN Traditional Territory and by asserting the Rights of the Nation more extensively as it has over the past three years, King says he continues to ensure the Crown carries out its legal obligations in regards to consultation and does not issue land use permits to individual or corporate interests without accommodation or consideration first being given to GBFN.
“We will commence an aggressive pursuit towards the creation of an Impact Benefit Agreement with Lac des Iles Mines, stemming from the previous Letter of Mutual Respect and Understanding that was struck between GBFN and North American Palladium which previous covered the areas of employment/training and mentoring; environmental monitoring and protection; economic development opportunities with GBFN joint venture partners; and resource revenue sharing,” said King.
“We will not continue to permit industries to reap the benefits associated with explorations and resource development in our Territory – both in mining and forestry – and will take more serious actions to prevent any and all negative affects of such to the Lands and/or members of our Nation.”
Wilfred King has led his Council in the continued pursuit of increasing and realizing the infrastructure needs in his community; namely the construction of a new water treatment plant that does not use harmful chemicals or involve expensive remediation; the production of a new school that includes a gymnasium, computer lab, community kitchen and uses green technology; the initiation of hydro electric upgrades to Hydro One’s diesel generation plant; and the securement of funding dollars for housing upgrades/construction which is vitally needed by almost every single member living in GBFN.
“I am also very eager to continue the important work on the various outstanding claim issues which could prove to significantly change both our physical and financial realities of our Nation,” said King.
Wilfred has enjoyed the extensive work he has put forward in regards to GBFN Claims, successfully negotiating an agreement with OPG on Past Grievance on Flooding while simultaneously continuing talks with Ontario and Canada on their portion of responsibilities. He also led GBFN’s team in discussions with Canada on Specific Timber Royalties pushing what was initially deemed a small $500K settlement to negotiating an $8,000,000 agreement that was recently ratified by his community members. King continues his concurrent work of negotiating and litigating in regards to GBFN Larger Land Base claim – one that many recognize could easily represent what only can be described as a highly significant increase in land from the current reserve boundary and the potential reception of what could be the largest financial settlement in his Region, if not the province.
Worth noting is the fact that since his education is in the field of law, GBFN is not strained to incur the types of costs associated with the participation of outside expert resources that other FNs are forced to pay out during negotiations if they lack the capacity to conduct business directly with high-level federal and provincial agents as Chief King is able. This is exactly the type of internal capacity that King indicates is vital in regards to GBFN sovereignty. He is eager to sustain the inventory work of the current skills/abilities/education/certification amongst his membership and promote their continued journey down their paths of life long learning. King hopes that this will lead some to exploring employment or volunteerism opportunities with their own Nation, rather than take their talent into more lucrative, dominant-society workplaces that offer better job security/benefits than GBFN is able.
“In the past three years, we have made real progress in the restoration of the integrity of GBFN in regards to financial and administrative reporting. I have always maintained that under my leadership, GBFN will operate in a manner that is open, transparent and accountable. We are on the verge of submitting the remainder of the required reporting and audits and I can tell you that it has not been an easy task. Given the challenges of paying the bills left behind by another Council, who has not provided any assistance in the completion of the required bureaucracy, we have attempted to successfully manage program dollars against the service expectations of members who can recall better times during my previous tenure in office. It’s been really tough for Council and members alike while we try to recover, but I feel we have made serious gains and are coming around the corner.”
Most recently, and because King is national recognized as highly experienced in the area of Claims and Rights-based assertions relative to current legal decisions, he was appointed as the Ontario Region Representative to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chiefs Committee on Claims which provides political oversight and information gathering/sharing on Land Rights and Claims (comprehensive, specific and additions to Reserves) to foster opportunities for FN participation in all aspects of advocating, governing and decision-making. In this regard, his voice and expertise speaks on FN Rights for the 127 Chiefs and communities in the province – Ontario having the largest number of people with Aboriginal ancestry in Canada.
“At the end of the day, I have made the personal decision to use the skills and abilities the Creator has given me for the betterment of my Nation. Chi-miigwetch to all GBFN members for your support.”