Two candidates are in the running for Zone 7 school trustee in a School District 27 byelection slated for Jan. 21.
Bruce Baptiste originally from Tsi Del Del First Nation (Redstone) and Fanny Stump of the Tl’etinqox First Nation (Anaham Reserve), are vying for the position which was deemed vacant by the board in mid-October after Joyce Cooper failed to attend a school board meeting since May 31.
Baptiste lives in Williams Lake and said he’s running to ensure all students in SD27 are given an opportunity to receive a good education — both First Nations and non-First Nations.
“I put my name forward because if I can help that happen in any way that’s what I want,” Baptiste said. “It is all about the kids.”
Rural students need to be given equal opportunities, he added.
“If they don’t get a good education then the future for them will not be good,” Baptiste said. “I do think First Nations are given more opportunities in the schools than they were even 10 or 15 years ago, but they do have to want them. And they need to be encouraged and supported.”
Baptiste is the adult justice co-ordinator for the Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society where he also works with youth.
“When I talk to them I promote education as a priority, whether they want to hear it or not,” he said.
Baptiste is also a longtime volunteer, organizing youth hockey, soccer, rifle safety and archery camps.
In the past Baptiste was on band council for Tsi Del Del so he’s used to politics, which he said will be something to deal with if he’s elected as trustee. “It’s not going to be easy and there will be naysayers, but I’m ready for it,” he added.
Trustee candidate Fanny Stump lives at Tl’etinqox and said as a mother and grandmother she has watched her own family members go through the school systems in both Williams Lake and Quesnel.
“There is a lot of money in the school system to help children to go to the fullest extent of their education and that needs to be exercised so they can all get further ahead,” Stump said. “I have a lot of grandchildren and I am very concerned about other families who are very shy and won’t approach teachers or principals in the schools.”
Fluent in the Tsilhqot’in language, Stump said she considers that an asset to help open up communication between families and the schools in the rural school system.
“It’s all about education and the well being of our families,” Stump said.
If elected she will be trying to stay positive, she added.
“Maybe we can find the right road for our youngsters to learn how to communicate and engage in defending our territory. It’s not just our territory it’s all of ours. If we are on the negative side it’s not going to get better.”
Advance polls will be taking place Wednesday, Jan. 11 at the school board office in Williams Lake from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at Naghtaneged School in Nemiah from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Tatla Lake School from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
General voting takes place on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Alexis Creek School and Anahim Lake School from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Residents 18 years old and over, living west of the Fraser River to Anahim Lake are eligible to vote and must provide two pieces of identification, at least one with a signature.
In the original version Bruce Baptiste was said to come from Tl’etinqox when in fact he is from Tsi Del Del.