Couchiching elects new chief

Duane Hicks

Brian Perrault is looking forward to building consensus and partnerships over the next two years as the newly-elected chief of Couchiching First Nation.
“I would first like to say thank you to everyone that supported me,” said Perrault, who garnered 259 votes in last Wednesday’s election to defeat incumbent Sara Mainville (174), Louis “Smokey” Bruyere (74), and Scott McPherson (27).
“And I also want to thank all of the other candidates that ran for chief and for council,” he added.
“I thank them all because I know they’re all interested in the best for our community.”
Perrault, who has served on the band council for a total of four terms in the past, said people had been asking him to run for chief for a while.
“I kept telling people that I would think about it,” he remarked.
“And then it just happened that there was enough people from different families in the community asking, so I finally decided, ‘You know, maybe I will let my name stand.’”
Perrault is joined by incumbent councillors David Bruyere (166 votes), Lucille “Bugsy” Morrisseau (230), Patrick Morrisseau (135), and William “Bill” Perrault (138), along with newly-elected councillor Dean Bruyere (176).
In a twist, Brian Perrault also was voted in as the sixth councillor with 205 votes, but plans to hold a byelection so someone else may run for that seat.
Perrault and the councillors have been elected for a two-year term, which will start next Tuesday (March 8).
The current chief and council will meet on an as-required basis until the end of their mandate this coming Monday.
“I look forward to working with the council,” Perrault remarked. “I know we can work well together.
“I have to respect the fact that everyone at that council table has been chosen by the people of our First Nation and going forward, that’s the way I’m looking at things,” he added.
“I’ll work with everyone on decisions and share information with that full council because they were selected by all of the people in Couchiching,” Perrault stressed.
“I think that’s the best approach—to respect everyone that did vote in the election.
“I know there’s times when we’ll be dealing with difficult issues but I’m hoping to reach consensus on issues we’re dealing with,” he noted.
“That’s the approach I want to take.”
Perrault said he’s looking forward to having a transition meeting with the current chief and council to find out more about what’s been done and where the community’s at.
“There were good things that were done and were put it in place, and I hope to continue on with those things from the previous council,” he remarked.
Looking forward, some of the ideas, issues, and concerns featured in Perrault’s platform included:
•a nursing home for area First Nations’ elders;
•a substance abuse treatment/aftercare centre;
•the issue of Couchiching staff members on council;
•the need for more community events and gatherings (traditional or otherwise); and
•acknowledging and utilizing the wisdom of elders.
Perrault also would like Couchiching to develop its own constitution.
“It would describe who we are, putting in place our own laws for how we govern ourselves here,” he explained.
“We do have policies in place but for us, we really need to turn those into laws of the people of Couchiching,” he added.
This constitution also may include revising how the community selects its leaders.
“Right now, we’re under the Indian Act election regulations,” noted Perrault.
“We would look at moving away from that by developing our own election code or law.”
Perrault also looks forward to working with other First Nations in the tribal area and Grand Council Treaty #3, as well as district municipalities.
“We’re here. We’re in this part of Northwestern Ontario. We got to work together,” he stressed.
“We are neighbours and I hope to work together with all our neighbours.”
Perrault comes to the position of chief with a great deal of experience.
For the past 19 years, he worked in the federal government at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada as an Issues Management Officer and a Senior Government Relations Officer.
Perrault, who’s close to 60, said he plans to retire in the near future.
He has served four terms as a Couchiching council member in the past. He also served three terms as the Fort Frances Area Tribal Chief for Grand Council Treaty #3.
Before working with Treaty #3, Perrault worked for the Ontario Indian Housing Inspection Unit as an inspector for four years. He also worked for the United Native Friendship Centre as a criminal court worker for two years.
Perrault is a lifelong resident of Couchiching. He has been married to his wife, Kathy, for 41 years, and has two children, Miranda and Trevor, and two grandsons, Owen and Elliot.
The other candidates who ran for council in last week’s election included Ron “Magoo” Archie (132 votes), Christine Jourdain (132), Eugene McPherson (128), Richard Bruyere (127), Nick Mainville (121), Allan Yerxa (120), Daniel Mainville (112), Ida Linklater (109), Margie Derendorf-Caul (87), and Carolyn Jourdain (84).
Rounding out the slate were Debbie Adams (77), Darren Morrisseau (71), Shane Jourdain (70), Daniel Craig Morriseau (64), Dennis Morrisseau (64), Gary Adams (55), Estelle Simard (49), Edwin Johnny Bruyere (41), Larry Linklater (40), Norman Bruyere Jr. (25), and Ronald Linklater (20).