By Kamloops This Week
Nelson Leon, former chief of Adams Lake Indian Band, has announced his candidacy for the position of B.C. regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
Leon joins Tk’emlups Indian Band Chief Shane Gottfriedson as the two declared candidates for the position. Voting among residents of 203 B.C. First Nations will culminate in the results being released on June 25.
“The regional chief needs to be the catalyst for advancing the recognition and implementation of aboriginal title and rights inclusive of treaty rights on the ground,” Leon said in a news release. “The recent Tsilhqot’in decision declaring aboriginal title, the Mount Polly disaster and the accelerated rate of resource development make it imperative that First Nations take a lead role in decision making of land based activities.
“Not only is our way of life affected but also the quality of our life, and what we have to pass on to our children.”
Leon served 16 years as an elected official in his community, the last nine years as chief.
During his term as chief, Leon was also a board member of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and president of the First Nations Energy and Mining Council. He also served on the All Nations Trust as a board member.
For seven years, Leon concurrently owned and operated a silviculture business and was the program manager for the Shuswap Training and Employment Program, providing training and employment for First Nations.
“The passive role that both the federal and provincial government take in addressing the reconciliation of aboriginal issues is unacceptable,” Leon said.
“It is a delay tactic that sees both governments benefit at the expense of First Nations communities and the lives of First Nations people of B.C.,” he said. “Social indicators such as academic achievement, state of health, unemployment rates and annual income paint a clear picture of social injustice maintained by both governments.
Leon said his focus as B.C. regional chief would include advancement of declarations of aboriginal title throughout B.C.; improved government-to-government relationship; creating economic certainty for First Nations; promotion of aboriginal business and employment; and support of the revitalization and retention of aboriginal languages.