Hard­lotte elected grand chief

The for­mer vice chief won a spec­tac­u­lar 161 of 247 votes cast on Tues­day to take the top spot at Prince Al­bert Grand Coun­cil

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - FRONT PAGE - ARTHUR WHITECRUMMEY

Brian Hard­lotte ap­proached his men­tor on Tues­day af­ter­noon, just min­utes af­ter win­ning a re­sound­ing vic­tory to lead the Prince Al­bert Grand Coun­cil.

The two men em­braced, and ex­changed a few words.

“Ron said to me, ‘well grand chief, it’s time to pass on,’” Hard­lotte re­counted. “You’re the grand chief now. I know you’re go­ing to do the good work.”

Ron Michel, the coun­cil’s four-term leader, re­calls say­ing some­thing else: “I knew it.”

Hard­lotte won a huge ma­jor­ity in Tues­day’s PAGC elec­tion. He earned 161 votes, 112 more than his clos­est com­peti­tor, to end the vote on the first bal­lot.

He stepped to the podium to thank those who sup­ported him. His fa­ther was in the au­di­ence, as were all the as­sem­bled chiefs from the PAGC’s twelve mem­ber na­tions.

“I’m very happy,” he said. “At the same time, I know that it’s go­ing to be a lot of work.”

He called for unity. His two com­peti­tors – Shoal Lake’s Charles White­cap and Mon­treal Lake’s Elmer Bal­lan­tyne – are like “brothers,” he said. But his warm­est words were for Michel.

“You will al­ways be the grand chief of the Prince Al­bert Grand Coun­cil,” Hard­lotte said. “You are a good men­tor and I know you will con­tinue that work.”

Then he spoke about the bat­tles that lay ahead. The day be­fore, the coun­cil’s Gen­eral Assem­bly passed a res­o­lu­tion call­ing for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this sum­mer’s wild­fires. Peter Bal­lan­tyne Cree Na­tion Chief Peter Beatty said a pro­vin­cial “let it burn” pol­icy al­lowed the fires get out of con­trol. The prov­ince de­nies that any such pol­icy ex­ists.

But Hard­lotte in­sists that it does. He said that the prov­ince “man­ages” fires, try­ing to con­trol them un­til they get too close to com­mu­ni­ties.

You will al­ways be the grand chief of the Prince Al­bert Grand Coun­cil. You are a good men­tor and I know you will con­tinue that work.” PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hard­lotte, speak­ing to out­go­ing Grand Chief Michel

But Hard­lotte, a for­mer fire­man him­self, would like to see fire­fight­ers snuff­ing out the blazes soon af­ter they start.

“It has to be those boots on the ground to pre­vent the evac­u­a­tion of the com­mu­ni­ties, to pre­vent the forests from burn­ing, to pre­vent the an­i­mals from burn­ing,” he said. “You’ve got to sup­press it, plain and simple.”

He said evac­u­a­tions can be trau­matic for north­ern com­mu­ni­ties.

“It’s a lot of stress for the el­ders, a lot of stress for the peo­ple, the peo­ple who are sick,” he said.

Hard­lotte said he’ll take that mes­sage to Ottawa and Regina. On all is­sues, he said he wants work closely with all lev­els of govern­ment, and make sure the PAGC has the ear of the pow­er­ful.

“We have to be able to get into the privy coun­cil,” he said, “the sec­re­tariat of the cab­i­net, and open the doors for Prince Al­bert Grand Coun­cil.”

He said govern­ment has to pro­vide more re­sources to First Na­tions in Saskatchewan, par­tic­u­larly to help fight a cri­sis of sui­cide in north­ern com­mu­ni­ties.

“It has to be a com­mu­nity strat­egy, but the money has to be there. We need those re­source peo­ple to work with our band coun­cil­lors, our chiefs,” he said. “The an­swers are there – the an­swers are in the com­mu­ni­ties.”

Af­ter his speech, Hard­lotte read the oath of his new of­fice, swear­ing to pro­tect the treaty rights and tra­di­tions of the coun­cil’s mem­ber First Na­tions. Michel adorned him with a head­dress, and chiefs Cook-Sear­son and Sayazie wrapped him in a star blan­ket.

He then shook hands with the hun­dreds of del­e­gates and on­look­ers who filled the Se­na­tor Allen Bird Cen­tre. His face lit up as he chatted with friends and sup­port­ers.

Michel said that con­nec­tion with the grass­roots is one of the new grand chief’s great­est as­sets.

“He’s a peo­ple per­son, com­mu­nity minded,” Michel said. “He knows how to com­mu­ni­cate.”

The old chief said he will al­ways be there to ad­vise his pro­tegé, when­ever he calls. In the mean­time, he’s go­ing to en­joy his re­tire­ment.

“I’m go­ing to take it easy for a year,” he said. “I’ll be lazy.”

De­spite all the chal­lenges, Hard­lotte said he’s op­ti­mistic for the fu­ture. He said the coun­cil’s com­mu­ni­ties have great po­ten­tial.

“Some­times we fail, the me­dia, even us, to high­light that the pos­i­tives out­weigh the neg­a­tives in every com­mu­nity,” he said. “As na­tions we need to build on it.”

ARTHUR WHITE-CRUMMEY/DAILY HER­ALD

Newly elected PAGC grand chief Brian Hard­lotte greets Lac La Ronge In­dian Band Chief Tammy Cook Sear­son, who nom­i­nated him for the po­si­tion.

ARTHUR WHITE-CRUMMEY/DAILY HER­ALD

Out­go­ing Grand Chief Ron Michel shakes hands with his suc­ces­sor, Brian Hard­lotte, shortly af­ter bal­lots were counted Tues­day.

ARTHUR WHITE-CRUMMEY/DAILY HER­ALD

Grand Chief Brian Hard­lotte wear­ing a star blan­ket draped over him by Chief Tammy Cook-Sear­son and Chief Coreen Sayazie.

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