Crystal Smith was last week elected Haisla Nation’s new Chief Councillor, a position she will hold for the next four years.
Smith held the position of acting Chief Councillor following Ellis Ross’ resignation last year in September, so that he could take up the nomination as the B.C. Liberal Party’s MLA for Skeena.
Smith received 463 votes, 200 more than her rival Keith Nyce, during the voting which took place on Monday, June 5, in the Haisla recreation centre.
Votes were also cast for the positions of five of the councillors – Taylor D. Cross, Lucille Harms, Margaret Grant, Brenda Duncan, and Harvey Grant were declared elected councillors, serving alongside Willard Grant, Raymond C.D. Green, Trevor Martin, Freddy Ringham and Kevin Stewart. The Haisla Nation Council uses a custom election code which establishes that the Council is elected in a staggered system so that the entire council is not elected at the same time. The next election for councillors will be in June 2019 to either replace or re-elect Grant, Green, Martin, Ringham and Stewart.
Smith was said the election result speaks volumes about the Haisla membership’s desire to carry on moving in the direction that was set by Ross in 2013, especially his campaign to overhaul the Haisla leadership structure.
“In my election campaign platform I committed myself to striving to improve our governance structure,” she said. “This was inspired by Ross’ vision of developing ten chief councillors, instead of having just one.
“Ross empowered us and gave us the opportunity to develop, and mentored us enough to be able to carry on without him.”
She said the result was also confirmation that most of the community was happy with council in the eight months following Ross’ departure, considering that four of the newly-elected councillors had been re-elected.
“The result not only speaks volumes about the work we have done so far, but also about the work the community wants us to continue doing.”
She said the eight months she served as acting chief councillor, while short, give her the opportunity to grow into the position.
“Winning this election is really just about removing a word – acting,” added Smith.
She said the new council’s short-term goals include the completion of the governance revue started by Ross, as well as projects that the council have been working on.
“We want to solidify the governance structure and ensure that it was last beyond the four years of this council’s term,” said Smith.
She said long-term priorities identified in the run-up to the elections included the need for employment and the revitalization of the Haisla culture and language, two areas the new council would be focusing on going forward.
“A big part of creating sustainable employment will be creating a local economy, which is crucial while we wait for the LNG projects to come online,” said Smith. “We have other small projects which will always be a priority.”
She said a third priority was working on improving the lives of young people in the community.
“It was very apparent that the youth want us to enhance programming for them,” said Smith. “We are going to be looking at enhancing their overall health and prosperity. They need to have their own space in the community.”
She added, however, that achieving greater prosperity for the Haisla would require greater participation by the entire community.
“I want greater involvement from all our members. I am only one of 11 councillors, and we will need the community’s support to maintain the momentum we currently have,” added Smith.