Liard McMillan’s decade-long reign as chief of the Liard First Nation is coming to an end.
The First Nation is going to the polls on Dec. 2, but McMillan says he won’t run again.
“I’ve served my community now for over 10 years, and we’ve accomplished many things while asserting ourselves outside of the land claims box,” McMillan said.
“Those accomplishments include building a development corporation that does business in the mining sector, and owning and operating hotels … I guess it’s just kind of reached a point where the community could benefit from some change.”
While leaving the chief’s chair open for a successor, McMillan said he’ll focus on continuing to serve his community in a private capacity.
McMillan leaves his post in the wake of two significant battles, one with the federal government over the community’s social assistance program, and the other with a local non-profit, the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society.
The social assistance fight saw McMillan hand control of that program back to Aboriginal Affairs because, he said, his government wasn’t given enough money to support it. After two weeks of confusion, a contractor was brought in to administer social assistance locally on behalf of the federal government, which pays for the program.
The conflict with LAWS goes back further, with McMillan and the non-profit’s executive director, Ann Maje Raider, each accusing the other of poor financial accountability.
Whoever takes over as chief likely won’t be sitting down in a cool seat.
One candidate who has already put his name forward is George Morgan. He lost to McMillan in the last election and says he’s running again because he wants to see the First Nation create what he calls good governance laws.
“Good governance is a concept that is widely known. It’s basically rules on how a household or any organization might run. The problem that we’re having is that we really don’t have any rules,” Morgan said.
“We did not have a general assembly this year. This is something we used to do customarily, but we have not had one this year. A good governance rule or law would include a rule that said we are going to have a GA and if chief and council refuse, there would be penalties built into the law,” he said.
Morgan acknowledged that Watson Lake struggles with a host of social ills and addictions issues, and he thinks some sort of supportive treatment or aftercare facility in the community would be a great help.
However, for him the accountability issue is top of mind.
“Even with social assistance … we don’t know which councillors agreed to this particular proposal to send the SA program back. For me, this is all about good governance. It leads to economic opportunities. In order for us to move forward on any of the social problems we’re facing, we must first consolidate how we relate to each other internally,” he said.
As the election approaches, the News will be speaking with other candidates for chief to explore their platforms and ideas for the community.
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