Hupacasath First Nation chooses new chief councillor, council

First change of leadership in a decade for Vancouver Island nation

The new council for Hupacasath First Nation. From left to right: Councillor Ricky-Lee Watts, Chief Councillor Brandy Lauder, Councillor Jolleen Dick and Councillor Warren Lauder. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni has a new look after the election of a new council on April 6.

Former councillor Brandy Lauder was elected as chief councillor, while Warren Lauder (incumbent), Jolleen Dick and Ricky-Lee Watts were elected as councillors. This is the first time in a decade that a new chief takes the helm.

Brandy Lauder said that this year’s election was “a whole lot different” with COVID-19 restrictions in effect. During previous elections, candidates have campaigned door-to-door in order to talk to members.

“This time, we couldn’t do that,” said Lauder. “It was a little more difficult. We’re used to gathering as people.”

Instead, candidates took to Facebook and campaigned over the phone.

Lauder was elected with 72 votes, running against Bobbi Ann Tatoosh (41 votes) and Jeff Gallic (32 votes).

Hupacasath operates under the Indian Act political governance model of an elected chief and three councillors, with an election taking place every two years. Lauder has already been on council for two terms, or four years, and already has experience with some of the chief councillor’s duties. Former chief coucillor Steven Tatoosh took a medical leave back in the summer of 2020, and was removed from his position in 2020 after being charged with numerous criminal offences, including assault and theft.

READ MORE: Former Hupacasath chief councillor pleads guilty

“The three of us [councillors] picked up all his portfolios and his work,” said Lauder. “It won’t be hard to step into this role because I know what needs to be done.”

Lauder says she is “excited” to work with the other elected councillors this term. Warren Lauder brings seven terms of experience on council to the table. Jolleen Dick also comes with experience, as she was on council between 2015-2017.

Ricky-Lee Watts, meanwhile, is new to council.

“He’s an outstanding, go-getting kind of guy,” said Lauder.

The council was scheduled to meet for the first time on Thursday, April 8 to discuss what their priorities will be for the next two years.

“It’s always for the betterment of Hupacasath,” said Lauder. “We work hard, whether it’s fishing, forestry, hunting or providing for our people.”

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