Kwanlin Dun First Nation citizens will have a new chief come March 19.
The First Nation is holding elections for its chief and council next month, and current chief Rick O’Brien is not seeking re-election.
Instead, the contest will be fought between two current councillors, a former member of the Yukon legislature and a retired CBC reporter.
Jessica Edzerza and Raymond Sydney sit on the government’s council, and Wayne Jim was the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini from 2000 until 2002.
Doris Bill worked for more than two decades as a CBC reporter in Whitehorse. She says she wants to use her experience in the media to help bring more openness and transparency to the Kwanlin Dun government.
“This past administration has done a great job communicating with its citizens,” she said. “It’s externally that they need some work.”
As well as a career as a journalist, Bill is currently working as a consultant for the First Nation, helping to improve communications and outreach.
Bill said she is eager to build on the achievements of O’Brien’s administration. She pointed to the recently completed covered outdoor hockey rink and plans for a new ball diamond in McIntyre
Village as two recent success stories that went unheralded.
O’Brien is also leaving office with a large surplus, around $2 million, Bill said.
Such successes are not widely publicized by the First Nation government, and its officials are rarely allowed to speak with reporters.
There are also plenty of challenging social issues facing the First Nation, and the government needs to address those publicly as well, Bill said.
Efforts to clean up the O’Brien apartments are a good example. Last summer, the News reported on the atrocious state of some of these units, which had been left in disrepair for years. At the time, blood and feces in common areas went uncleaned for weeks, despite repeated complaints from some residents.
First Nation politicians and officials refused to comment, other than to issue a written statement that included only vague references to government policies and did not acknowledge there was a problem at the apartments.
“The O’Brien apartments, that was a really serious concern,” said Bill, who added that the community came together to meet and to find a potential solution.
“They’ve completely renovated the outside and now they’re moving inside. We came together and we are dealing with a lot of issues that way. We have about 10 or 15 working groups. I think it’s a great way to get the community involved and getting the community to help solve these problems,” Bill said.
But aside from housing, there are a host of other issues to tackle, Bill said. “We need long-term alcohol and drug-abuse strategies. I want to look towards a new admin building too, which is badly needed, and we need an elders care facility as well,” she said.
Her list goes on: community safety, a potential constitutional review, better access to services and programming for Kwanlin Dun citizens. It’s an ambitious tally that Bill said she’s eager to tackle if she’s elected.
“I’m running because I care. I care what happens to it. Over the summer, people have started approaching me and asking me to run.
“I really want for us to move forward. There has been so much good work during this last term that I hate to see that all unravel. I just want us to build on that,” she said.
Contact Jesse Winter at firstname.lastname@example.org