UPDATED: Alphonse reclaims chief title from Hwitsum

Harvey Alphonse -
Harvey Alphonse
— image credit:

Cowichan Tribes has a new chief — kind of.

Former leader Harvey Alphonse was re-elected after two terms off council in Tuesday’s vote.

He edged out incumbent, Chief Lydia Hwitsum, 322 votes to 280.

Alphonse ran on a four-pronged platform: economic development, movement on the treaty process, opportunities for youth, and improvements to on-reserve housing.

“On the economic development side of things, I have been meeting with some business people and things are looking good, but I can’t really divulge too much because I signed a confidentiality agreement — but this will bring economic development for Cowichan Tribes,” he said.

What’s more, Alphonse said it’ll also be an economic boost for the Cowichan Valley, and create jobs for Cowichan Tribes members.

“I insisted on it,” he said.

Alphonse promises to consult the Cowichan community for direction on the frustratingly slow-going and resource-consuming treaty process.

“I’ve always said the treaty process is for the people, by the people, so we get our mandate from the people first.”

Alphonse will be hosting quarterly meetings to keep Cowichan members up-to-date on issues, and hear feedback.

“I think that’s important because you want to show that you are transparent and accountable,” Alphonse said.

He also plans to create more opportunities for youth — from the performing arts to sports and recreation — and wants to discuss housing options with the other levels of government.

But for now, Alphonse is just excited to head back to the Chief and Council table.

He’ll be joined by incumbents Darin George, Calvin Swustus, William Chip Seymour, Cindy Daniels, Dora Wilson, Chuck Seymour and Albie Charlie, plus Arvid Charlie, Stephanie Charlie, Lester Joe, Diane Daniels and Diane Modeste.

Incumbents Lloyd Bob, Howie George and Andrew Canute were not re-elected, and incumbent Wayne Charlie did not run in the Nov. 29 election.

Tribes elections allow candidates to run for chief and council positions at the same time.

While elected to council, Stephanie Charlie also ran a strong campaign for chief, coming in third with 253 votes.

She heavily pushed for more community inclusion in decision-making during her campaign.

“I want to bring us back together, and give the community a voice,” the new councillor said.

“We could have a lot of opportunities to bring community in, and consult and work collaboratively together. As it is now, we have a few meetings a year, and it’s usually just an update meeting. I think when we have opportunities, like business ventures, we should bring in the community for meaningful discussion.”

She’s seen more inclusive models work in other communities — Charlie worked eight years as a consultant with other bands that are still under the Indian Act, yet manage a more traditional form of governance.

“They have successfully set up systems that bring back the more traditional ways of governing ourselves,” Charlie explained.

“And, traditionally, we would have more consultation with each other, to understand what was best for the whole community to move forward, so I think we have a great opportunity here to utilize all the people in the community, from the youth to the elders, in discussing issues and opportunities.”

The new council will be sworn in on Dec. 7.

Hwitsum could not be reached for comment.

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