Georgina Lutz-McKay wants to heal her people.
The daughter of hereditary LFN chief Dixon Lutz is the latest contender to join the Liard First Nation’s race to elect a new chief. She sees a community divided along family and political lines, and she wants to help fix it.
“I’m running because of what’s happening now and in the past with chief and council. I was asked by others to represent the people. People want change. They want a positive and honest person in there,” she said.
Watson Lake is worn out from too many controversies, Lutz-McKay said. There were questions of transparency and openness under current Chief Liard McMillan’s leadership, she said, which came to a head with protests against his leadership in 2012. That sparked a court battle between McMillan and one of the protest organizers, Vianna Abou.
McMillan successfully sued Abou for unfairly damaging his reputation by circulating a fake petition calling for his ouster, which included the names of deceased LFN members.
But every other week it seems there’s another threat of a lawsuit from someone in the community, and an ongoing public feud continues to be fought between McMillan’s government and the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society.
“What’s happening in the media, I don’t think that’s very healthy for our government. Not a good thing,” Lutz-McKay said.
“I really do hope that things would be mended; this community definitely needs everyone back together. That’s the main thing. I so strongly want to see everyone back together and working together,” she said.
The most recent controversy is over funding for the community’s social assistance program. Earlier this fall, McMillan’s government handed control over the program back to the federal government, saying Ottawa wasn’t providing enough money to administer the program.
After almost two weeks of uncertainty in Watson Lake, the federal government brought in a private contractor – H.G. Smith and Associates – to do the program’s paperwork and hand out the cheques.
But Lutz-McKay wants to see that power back in the hands of the First Nation.
“I’ve spoken to the people who are directly affected – they’re very upset. A lot of people are very upset because the (social assistance workers) have to come down from Whitehorse and stay in the hotel and work out of the community hall. The people around the community have to wait until they are available. They’re without any money or fuel until they are in town,” she said.
Like many of her challengers for chief, Lutz-McKay acknowledged that her community is fighting a difficult battle against alcohol and drug addiction. Two other candidates, Jim Wolftail and George Morgan, have said the town needs aftercare services to help stabilize addicts coming back from treatment.
Lutz-McKay agrees, but also thinks that education and job training are of huge importance for tackling the issue. It’s something she hears about on a “daily basis” while dealing with the public as a Canada Post employee, she said.
“I talk to the people, and they’re saying, ‘We need jobs. We need to do something.’ They’re asking for education. They’re asking for some kind of support,” she said.
Along with Lutz-McKay, Wolftail and Morgan, Daniel Morris and Susan Magun are also in the running for the chief’s chair. The election date has been moved to Dec. 16, with advance polls on Dec. 2 at the Denetia School Gym in Lower Post, B.C., and the election office in Watson Lake.
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