Wilf Adam is running for an unprecedented fourth straight term as chief councillor of the Lake Babine Nation, saying the nation is on the verge of a ground-breaking opportunity to provide economic stability and opportunity.
That opportunity is a foundation agreement of 25 years in length between the nation, the province and the federal government.
“I’m tired of managing poverty,” said Adam, 63, who first served as chief councillor from 1988 to 1994 before leaving to sit on the BC Treaty Commission and then returning to become chief councillor again in 2009. He was re-elected in 2012 and again in 2015.
The pending 25-year agreement grew out of Adam’s frustration with short term economic deals covering, for instance, forest resources within the first nation’s traditional lands.
Adams said he began promoting his concept during a conversation years ago with then-provincial reconciliation and aboriginal affairs minister John Rustad while both were standing on the roof of the under-construction Lakes District Hospital.
“I told John that we do all these negotiations with you for forestry — 5,000 metres up to 30,000 metres for six months or two years but that it just doesn’t work at all. It’s time we did something for a much longer term,” said Adam.
That conversation of longer term economic arrangements to provide stability and growth spurred intense negotiations between the Lake Babine and the provincial government framed around the growing movement toward reconciliation with B.C. first nations.
And because many first nations issues also involve the federal government, it also was drawn into the negotiations.
“This would have so many implications — education, health, education,” said Adam of the agreement.
While the provincial government is solidly behind the agreement and it’s passed through the political levels of the federal government, the latter’s full agreement is now in the hands of federal bureaucrats, he added.
The agreement should not be equated with a full land claims treaty the nation would establish with the federal and provincial governments but it would be a huge step forward to self-sufficiency, said Adam.
While with the BC Treaty Commission, Adam served as both commissioner and chief commissioner overseeing its task of being a neutral observer and facilitator of negotiations between first nations and the federal and provincial government within B.C. and the Yukon.
Adam had originally chosen teaching as a career path but was drawn into band adminstration half-way through his post secondary education upon the request of a former chief councillor.
With a membership of approximately 2,500 people, the Lake Babine Nation has three principle communities — the largest being Woyenne in Burns Lake and two smaller ones of Tachet and Fort Babine.
It’s the second largest first nation in the north with members also living elsewhere in the province.
Advance polling took place June 16 with regular polling happening June 26 as voters choose their leadership for the next three years.
Four people are running against Adam — Gordon Alec, Cindy Lowley, Mary-Ann Poirier and Fred William.