UPDATE: Incumbent Alec Niemi is no longer seeking re-election in the upcoming election for Electoral Area-C
For the first time ever, a First Nations woman intends to run for the position of Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) Electoral Area-C director.
Sts’ailes woman Annie Silver, originally from Cheam First Nation, has put her name in the hat to challenge current director Alec Niemi, also running in the upcoming election.
Area-C, frequently referred to as ‘Sasquatch Country,’ serves over 2,200 constituents spread across nearly 4,000 square-kilometres. It includes six First Nations: Leq’a:mel, Scowlitz, Sts’ailes, Douglas, Samahquam and Skatin, as well as the communities of Hemlock Valley, Harrison Mills and Lake Erock.
Silver says the area needs someone to connect First Nations people with non-First Nations communities.
“We think that, although Alec has been doing a really good job…we think there needs to be a little bit more of a bridge between the First Nations communities and the mainstream and [to] have somebody that’s going to be a voice for all the people,” Silver told the Observer.
“I would try to embody all the communities, but I would also try to have a voice for all the citizens both on-reserve and off-reserve, both First Nations and non-First Nations.”
Silver has served on the Mission Social Development Commission and the Mission Healthy Community Council as well as on the board of directors for SARA for Women (previously the Women’s Resource Society for the Fraser Valley).
She’s never been in an elected position, but she cites her background working with Fraser Valley Aboriginal Child and Family Services and work in housing, capitol and public works for Cheam First Nation and currently, Sumas First Nation, as giving her the tools to take on the role of director.
“I have a good understanding of infrastructure in communities and the process for doing upgrades,” she said.
The FVRD’s regional growth strategy includes engaging, consulting and collaborating with First Nations on a number of long-term goals – something Silver says she can help facilitate.
“I would be able to bridge the First Nations community with the FVRD a lot easier,” she said. “There’s just some things that it’s easier having a First Nations representative do.”
Silver says she will advocate for upgrades such as paving of the road up to Sasquatch, and an Area-C health centre – something Sts’ailes has already proposed to Fraser Health and the First Nations Health Authority – but her biggest focus will be bridging social gaps by helping to build joint partnerships, consultations and development.
“If you take a look at how First Nations and the FVRD or any municipality negotiate and work together, it’s not always easy, it’s even hard just to get them both to the same table at the same time,” she said.
“I would be able to bridge those gaps…so that we could streamline that process and make it a lot easier.”