Couchiching to elect chief, council tomorrow

Seven candidates are vying to be chief of Couchiching in tomorrow’s band election, including incumbent Chuck McPherson.
“I hope the electorate of Couchiching will view my record in an unbiased fashion,” said McPherson, a former band manager who previously served as chief from 1986-88.
McPherson said economic and employment issues have been the most important for the band council over the past term. “We’ve certainly gone in the direction we said we would,” he remarked.
One of those projects has been construction of the 18-hole Heron Landing Golf Course. McPherson said it will provide employment and recreation opportunities for many Couchiching residents.
“It was part of the planning initiative of this council,” he noted, adding council also has provided a youth facility that will be completed soon.
It will allow youth to participate in many activities, including track and field, volleyball, basketball, and weight training.
McPherson also said recent vandalism at the band council office is “a sad commentary.”
“There’s been speculation that it’s election related,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a political adversary but we have an open-door policy. I don’t think it’s necessary to kick doors open.”
Rick Baker, one of the six candidates challenging McPherson for chief tomorrow, said with all the changes facing the band council, his experience would be invaluable.
He served two terms as president of a local union, is past president of the Thunder Bay/Atikokan NDP riding association, was a federal candidate for the riding, and was president of the Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre.
“I can deal with the Indian Act and the Health Act, and express the opinions of the community,” Baker said, adding the band council’s mandate under his direction would be to have the community more involved in the decision-making process.
“A major amount of money was spent on the golf course and the community centre,” he said. “The community has to be involved in the decision-making process to see if that’s the way they want to spend the money.”
Baker also said self-government and self-sufficiency for First Nations can be best accomplished through open and accountable leadership.
His council would undertake a nine-point plan that would include a renewed partnership with various levels of government, bringing viable business to the community, a community school, an elders’ council, band meetings open to the membership, working with Treaty #3 to pursue a home care residence for community elders, and community referenda on critical issues.
Another candidate for chief, Harry Morrisseau Jr., has run his own consulting business since April, 1996. Previously, he served as band economic development officer for eight years and one term as a band councillor
He said his council would work to gain input and trust in community, tribal, treaty, regional, and national interests. Decision-making of the council would be based on consensus and be made public to the community.
“I will develop a policy that guarantees that membership is fully informed on community actions, including the creation of financial statements that explain the economic situation of the community,” Morrisseau said.
“Communications with the community is vital,” he stressed, adding his council would publish a monthly newsletter to give a more comprehensive view of the developments of Couchiching.
He also promised to address the problem of dropouts at Fort Frances High School, saying he will establish incentive programs designed to keep students in school.
Aldin Foy currently is president of the Brandon Friendship Centre Board and has served as president of the Native Association at the University of Brandon, where he’s completing a Master’s degree in rural development with a focus on aboriginal issues.
“There are a lot of issues to deal with on a daily basis with constant negotiations with government officials and bureaucrats in order to access program funding,” he said about his work with the Friendship Centre there.
Foy said senior members of his family asked him to run for chief of Couchiching. “I take that as a compliment because they’re recognizing my abilities,” he remarked.
“One of the things I firmly believe in is that the community should be informed of things going on in the community—capital investments, bricks and mortar, any kind of economic development,” he noted.
“I think community members have a right to know what direction the leadership is taking—what the plans, goals, and visions are.”
The other three candidates for chief—Christopher Bruyere, former chief Rudy Morrisseau, and Wallace Bruyere—could not be reached for comment by press time.
There also are 24 candidates running for a seat on band council tomorrow.
Election results will be available Friday morning.