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First Nations regional chief candidates vie for top job

First time all candidates are female
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Judith Sayers, former chief of Hupacasath First Nation, says women want change.

Chiefs from First Nations throughout B.C. are in Vancouver to elect a regional chief today from an all-female slate of candidates.

The candidate to beat is current regional chief Jody Wilson-Raybould of We Wai Kai First Nation of the Cape Mudge/Campbell River area, who has served for three years.

Her challengers are Shana Manson of Lyackson First Nation of Chemainus and Marjorie McRae of the Hazelton-based Gitxsan and Tsimshian First Nations.

Judith Sayers, former Hupacasath First Nation chief, who is now national aboriginal economic development chair at the University of Victoria, said it's the first time three women have vied for the position.

"I think it is a reflection of changing times. People are wanting to see things getting done," Sayers said.

It's an important time for First Nations, with several pieces of legislation before Parliament that would affect aboriginal communities, she said. "One of the big issues is missing and murdered women and violence against women and the seeming inaction of government," Sayers said. "And we don't seem to be making progress on inherent rights. We just seem to be being annihilated at so many different turns."

Women are pushing for change, Sayers said. "They are tired of the same motions and same issues coming to the table."

Wilson-Raybould's platform is centred on supporting self-government in whatever form First Nations choose.

"While there are many opportunities to rebuild our nations, we must always be cautious," she says in her election pamphlet. "In keeping with our objective, any change must be put to a simple test - will it make the lives of our citizens better?"

Manson is hitting out at the Harper government. "Harper's agenda is clear. The erosion of our inherent rights and title must stop," she says.

"I am accepting nomination to the office of B.C. AFN regional chief to work with the chiefs of B.C., the B.C. Leadership Council and the National Assembly of First Nations executive to bring all that we have to fight for our nations, our communities, our families and our citizens."

McRae, a band councillor for 27 years, has served as chief councillor for five terms and says she has worked at ensuring accountability and transparency in her government.

"Marjorie is a champion and strong advocate for the advancement of health, child welfare and education programs and services for all First Nations people in B.C.," says her election pamphlet.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com