“I decided it’s about time other people took over,” said outgoing Kátł’odeeche Chief Roy Fabian on his decision not to run for re-election. “I want to give other people a chance to lead so they can gain experience.”
The First Nation's election takes place on November 6, and there are seven candidates in the running to replace Fabian: Amos Cardinal, Andy Cardinal, Lenny Fabian, April Martel, Jeffrey Norn, Ken Norn, and Doreen Tambour.
Six councillors (an increase from the previous four positions) will all be acclaimed, including Doug Lamalice, Robert Lamalice (incumbent), Patrick Martel (incumbent), Peter Sabourin, Raymond Sonfrere, and Henry Tambour.
Fabian has been chief on and off for around 15 years. Most recently he has held the position since 2009, although he was also chief for a few years in the late 1980s and early 2000s.
“I’ve just been doing this for a long time and I’ve made a couple of milestones that I wanted to achieve,” he said, explaining that at 67, he is ready for a break.
He said he is most proud of his work negotiating agricultural benefits, a memorandum of understanding regarding self-determination, and treaty land entitlement for the community.
For example, Fabian explained that in 1974, all First Nation members were supposed to receive one square mile of land, but – due to a miscount – the reserve is 10 square miles smaller than it should be.
“We now need to select land,” he said, explaining an economic study will determine which land would be most beneficial to add.
Aside from negotiating on behalf of the community, Fabian is also proud of his work getting the First Nation out of debt.
“When I took over in 2009, the band was $20 million in the hole,” he said, noting its last financial statements showed a $10 million surplus.
He highlighted hiring good administration and making sure First Nation businesses were running smoothly as the key to this success.
But he said the incoming chief and council still has plenty of work to do, even with his council "taking the band out of debt and setting it up on its feet."
Managing cannabis and alcohol, housing and homelessness, jobs, culture and language, and Indigenous rights are just some of the issues he hopes the new council will tackle during its term.
As for himself, he’s still thinking about what he’s going to do next.
“If I get too bored, I’ll get back to work," he said.
"I don’t want to abandon community, I still have lots of knowledge and capacity in terms of leadership ... I want to say, 'If you guys need my help, I’m here for you.'"