On January 20, 2021, I signed my Oath of Office to be sworn into Council at the Canim Lake Band. 2 hours later my Kye7e Ella passed away from Covid-19. It was a fairly dark period in my community. We were in lockdown with 75% of our community members who either had Covid-19 or came in contact with someone who had it. We had in total more than 60 cases of Covid at the time. This represented more than 10% of the cases in the entire Province of BC at the time. Our little community of 400+. Thankfully we also enacted the strictest lockdown in the Province. Nobody was allowed to leave their home to interact with other households. For the safety of our community and the surrounding South Cariboo region, we stopped COVID-19 in its tracks.
We also had other community members living away from home who were sick, including Art and Joyce, who were good friends of my mom’s. They were also husband and wife and unfortunately passed away. RIP.
Since then, we also had the discovery of the 215 children at the Residential School in Kamloops. Many of the survivors in my community attended this school. Others also attended the Mission in Williams Lake. We have documented stories from elders who have passed on about the atrocities yet to be uncovered here. The announcement was massively triggering for many people. The Government of Canada and the Church deliberately created the conditions for death to occur – it was genocide. I’m glad Canadians can finally empathize. Even if only for a moment.
Leading through a Pandemic, and the discovery of the Children, and the general stresses of work have all had a significant impact on my mental health. Thankfully help is available. I reached out to a professional therapist who guided me in managing the stress and anxiety of life. He reminded me that prior to the Pandemic, my friends played a very important role in my life. And that soon enough the pandemic will subside.
It reminds me of an email I received at the beginning of the Pandemic. It said “Carl, we want you to get through the other side of the pandemic better off than when we went into it.” It honestly inspired me to actually do this. To make sure I am better off, but also my community.
Because we had multiple deaths in our community, my first Council meeting wasn’t until April 6th. The very first thing I did was introduce a Band Council Resolution to separate politics and business in our community. To make sure our businesses are managed by professional business managers. And to authorize the creation of a new business division of the Canim Lake Band. It’s a critical governance change for our Band. All First Nations who have experienced significant success in business and economic development underwent this transformation. Our companies will be managed by a professional Board of Directors rather than Chief and Council. It allows our leadership to focus on community matters. It’s a work in progress but announcements should come soon on this front.
Since then, I was able to meet with some other very cool people to advance the interests expressed by our community members, and which align with my experience and skills.
The first is Her Excellency, Kirsten Hillman, Ambassador of Canada to the United States. We discussed ensuring that there are supports with in Canada’s Embassy and Trade Mission to ensure that Indigenous people are able to take advantage of export provisions in the new NAFTA.
The second is the Honourable Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations. We discussed making sure that the Minister apportions sufficient forest volume towards the Canim Lake Band. We have identified Canim Lake Band Aboriginal Title area which we assert exclusive decision-making authority and beneficial interests in. We asked the Minister to use the existing tools at her discretion to move forward reconciliation in a tangible way. The Canim Lake Band is the only entity in the South Cariboo with the long-term best interests of the region at heart. Our purpose is to maximize benefits and investment in the region.
The third is the Honourable Nathan Cullen, Minister of State for Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations. His responsibility is to reform the Ministry to benefit all British Columbians. I shared with him ways in which we worked well with the Ministry. Challenges we’ve faced. And specific ways in which the Ministry needs to reform in order to ensure my Band’s interests are met. Did you know that one of Premier John Horgan’s first phone calls was to the CEO’s of BC’s three largest forest extraction companies? The Canim Lake Band has a very clear vision of how we want our land managed in the future to ensure local ownership and local benefits of the resources located here in our territory.
It’s been a whirlwind 6 months since I was sworn in. But I want to ensure our community governance is better off so that we can keep driving results post-pandemic. There are still some big meetings and major events to come, including many announcements. In two weeks, I’ll be at an event with the Honourable Minister Nanaia Mahhuta, Foreign Affairs, New Zealand, and the United States Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland. I’m stoked! Let your light shine!
Carl has been actively involved in re-imagining nation building. He has travelled extensively throughout Secwepemc territory and is fluent in Secwepemctsin.