Former Snuneymuxw Chief’s experience put to good use
John Wesley likes to keep busy. And he is doing just that these days, if his calendar in mid-March is any example.
The former chief of Snuneymuxw First Nation (SFN) has been attending meetings of the First Nations Summit, the Common Table for Treaty and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. That is not to mention his regular SFN council meetings or board meetings of the BC First Nations eHealth; or those of the Coast Salish Employment Training Society where he is the recently elected president.
“Yes, I’ve been very busy,” said Wesley. “But it is a good kind of “busy-ness”. My chief (Doug White III) has really put me to work and I give him a lot of credit for that.
“Something that impressed me soon after he was elected was how he reached out to some of us ‘veterans’ on council, saying that he wanted to make good use of our experience. That showed how confident and smart he really is.
” Wesley said often when younger new chiefs are elected for the first time, they tend to forget about the skill and knowledge of the people that have come before them.
But Wesley said that Chief White, who was elected for his first term in December, let everyone sitting around the council table know that political differences wouldn’t be getting in the way of moving SFN forward.
One of Wesley’s first appointments was to the eHealth board of directors. He replaced Ray Harris of Stz’uminus.
Tensions over health
The eHealth group grew out of the 2005 Transformative Change Accord and now exists as a tripartite group made up of the First Nations Health Council, Health Canada and BC’s ministry of health. The term e-health refers to an integrated set of information technologies that enables the efficient delivery of health care services.
Health was on the agenda when Wesley attended the Union of BC Indian Chiefs meeting in Vancouver. “There was a lot of tension over health issues,” he said.
A week after that meeting, Wesley attended the Common Table First Nations meeting made up of those who are concerned that the BC treaty process does not adequately acknowledge existing rights and past realities. The next several days were spent joining White and others at the quarterly Summit meetings at Chief Joe Mathias Centre at Squamish Nation.
Another big task for Wesley came when he was elected president of CSETS in February. The organization is the training provider for 19 First Nations and friendship centres on Vancouver Island south of Qualicum and includes six Naut’sa mawt Tribal Council nations.
“There is a big rebuilding job to do,” he said. “We are making business plans because of the five-year agreement we expect from the federal government in October.
“But first we have to do some rebuilding. We have to get everything on track again and make sure that we are all there for the right reasons.”