Ed Champion is the new chief of the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun.
Champion took the win Tuesday night with 121 votes, surpassing incumbent Simon Mervyn with 111. Chief candidate Barbara Buyck earned 43 votes.
Millie Olsen won the only contested council position with 134 votes.
“It’s a great day in Mayo. We got the call last night, and we got phone calls for hours and hours into the evening. People are really happy,” said Champion.
With the election over, Champion said his first move will be to consult with his new council and develop a strategy to tackle the community’s health and wellness issues.
“As of today, health and wellness is a priority for Na-cho Nyak Dun,” he said.
Champion said he won’t make any major moves until he’s had the chance to hear input from his council, but he does have some ideas of his own that he looks forward to discussing.
“There are changes regarding drug and alcohol issues that have to be deal with. We have to find answers for the community,” he said, adding that his approach will work within the community’s current rules.
“Everything will be voluntary, by leadership, by example. We’re looking at a treatment centre of some kind in Mayo, more access to treatment and programs, and coaching for council and the community,” he said.
Champion will also be taking over from Mervyn as spokesperson for the First Nations involved with the Peel land use planning process. He said he will rely on the experience of NND staff who have handled the file so far. But, like his predecessor, he isn’t backing down from a fight.
“I’d like to thank Simon for all his hard work, especially on the Peel. He’s a good man. I fully support all the hard work that the NND staff have done over the years regarding the Peel. My personal viewpoint is that when the government takes five years and consults with Yukoners and First Nations but then just throws it all aside, I have a really hard time with that. If they want to provoke a confrontation, they’ll get one,” said Champion.
Champion got his start in politics as a businessman and volunteer worker in Vancouver. He helped get B.C.‘s Deaf-Blind Services Society off the ground after encountering frustrations with the lack of services for his own family.
“My sister is deaf-blind. What happens when they turn 18 is there are no longer services available in Canada,” Champion explained.
So he set about changing things, volunteering to build the society’s capacity from around four clients to an estimated 30 people helped today.
“I did it on my own time, on my own money. It’s been about 25 years now. The whole thing was being able to breathe life into it, and it’s got a life of its own now,” he said.
Champion has been back in Mayo for four years, where his wife runs the grocery store.
There will be an orientation process for Champion and Olsen followed by a swearing in over the coming days. Champion said it should be business as usual by next week.
Councillor Olsen could not be reached for comment by press time.
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