BRITISH COLUMBIA

Kamloops band chief running for regional chief of Assembly of First Nations

05/06/2015 06:48 EDT | Updated 05/06/2016 05:59 EDT
KAMLOOPS, B.C. - The chief of the First Nations band in Kamloops, B.C., has decided to run for regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Shane Gottfriedson said that regardless of the outcome of the vote on June 25, he will not seek re-election in November as chief of the Tk'emlups Indian Band.

Gottfriedson became the first candidate for regional chief as the 203 First Nations communities in B.C. prepare to decide who will succeed Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is now a federal Liberal candidate in a Vancouver riding.

Gottfriedson was elected chief in Kamloops in 2003 and has served four successive terms. He said he decided to forego a shot at a fifth term because he wanted to focus on the next step in his career.

"I think 12 years of community service is a good run," he said. "I think it's time for me to look at a new career path. I think I'll always be a leader in the community."

Gottfriedson considered running for national chief last year after the sudden resignation of Shawn Atleo, but decided against a campaign.

"I think I can make a greater impact at the provincial level," Gottfriedson said. "My work in the community speaks for itself. I've got a proven track record."

Gottfriedson ran for regional chief in 2009 and came within nine votes of sitting in that office.

"This time, I'm taking a different perspective into this campaign," he said, noting the next six weeks will see him visit as many of the First Nations communities in B.C. as possible.

In his speech to band members, Gottfriedson said there has been a lack of leadership in B.C. in the past six years.

"Land claims scare the hell out of investors," he said. "If you treat me and my people fairly, there is nothing to be afraid of. We will not back down, but the door is always open to a fair deal."

Arguing Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has continued a policy of "extinguishing native peoples' land rights," Gottfriedson said it is time for a unified approach to aboriginal title rights and treaty.

"Canada and B.C. have learned we can be their greatest ally or their darkest nightmare," he said. "The choice is obvious."

As for issues such as the proposed Ajax gold-copper mine project near Kamloops, Gottfriedson pointed to the twice-denied Prosperity project in the Chilcotin as proof that industry needs to start working with communities. (Kamloops This Week)