In a historic first for the Regional District of Nanaimo, a First Nation chief has been asked to sit on the board of directors as an alternate.
Qualicum First Nation chief Michael Recalma agreed to be director Bill Veenhof’s alternate, representing the area of Deep Bay/Bowser,
Recalma confirmed with The NEWS on Friday.
“It’s new ground for QFN and it’s new ground for me,” he said.
Many big issues in the Deep Bay/Bowser community, such as the seaweed harvest and development, are topics Recalma admits he’s already familiar with.
He said he’s happy to take on the new role, further broadening his knowledge of local government and community.
“We (First Nations) are governed by a different set of rules and laws and whatever happens outside of my community may not affect me but it might infect me,” he said. “We’re neighbours.”
Recalma was elected as QFN chief in August 2014. According to Aboriginal Affairs, the Qualicum First Nation has 106 members, of which 55 live on reserve.
Veenhof, a second term director, said he’s “proud and honoured” about the new partnership.
In seeking an alternate director, Veenhof said he looked for somebody who had “feet on the ground in an area I’m not terribly familiar with.”
He said an alternate director’s role is twofold: “when I’m away the alternate comes in and votes in my place. To do that an alternate needs to have his or her eye on the ball and it requires a degree of paying attention and being interested in what’s going on in the community … additionally, the alternate director serves as a sounding board for me, a voice of reason.”
Veenhof said if he becomes unable to serve as the area director, his alternate will fill in until a by-election is held in the area.
“It’s a recognition for me, and the RDN, that all of us represent a community of communities,” he said. “No community is an island and the decisions of the RDN influence other regional districts, the province and the band … nothing good happens at the RDN that isn’t good for the band.”
RDN manager of administrative services Jacquie Hill confirmed this is the first time, in the history of the regional district, that a First Nation chief has sat on the board as either a director or alternate director.
In another historic move, Snuneymuxw member Bill Yoachim was elected to Nanaimo city council during the recent municipal election. On Dec. 9 he was sworn in as a regional district representative on the RDN board. Yoachim is considered the first candidate of Snuneymuxw descent to claim a council seat.
In October the RDN passed a motion vowing to formally acknowledge First Nation traditional territory.
At the time, RDN chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson said “it is a true recognition by the RDN board of the important partnerships the RDN is building with First Nations of this region and the important role those partnerships will continue to have going forward.”
— With files from Tamara Cunningham/ Nanaimo News Bulletin