By Brian Lawrence
When Jason Louie was elected as Lower Kootenay Band chief for a third term, he knew that a busy year was ahead. But he’s prepared for the hard work, which continues the band council’s goals of strengthening the financial and physical well-being of LKB members.
In 2019, the band will break ground on a 12,000-square-foot health centre and will vote in a referendum on the construction of a drug and alcohol treatment centre.
“Health and substance abuse are things I’ve had to live with and witness, and see so many friends and relatives leave this world because they didn’t have access to medical attention,” said Louie. “They didn’t even have a doctor.”
The health centre, which will also house the band’s administration offices, will be built on the site of the decommissioned St. Peter’s Church, and offer foot care, as well as the services of a diabetic nurse and nurse practitioner. It and the treatment centre would be partially funded by the First Nations Health Authority and would bring some peace of mind to LKB residents.
“Our cemetery is full of young people who could not overcome their addictions,” said Louie. “Seeing people have a second chance at life is the most rewarding thing.”
Louie has been the band’s chief since the 2010 election and was returned to the position in November, joined by the re-elected Coun. Sandra Luke and new Coun. Rob Louie Sr.; the latter tied with Wayne Louie, who conceded in the weeks following the Nov. 30 election. They serve alongside Josie Fullarton and Jared Basil, whose positions aren’t up for re-election until 2020.
He is looking forward to continuing to guide the LKB with a vision of self-sufficiency and self-reliance, a goal that will be accomplished by various business ventures, including the ownership and operation of Ainsworth Hot Springs and Morris Flowers, as well as a partnership in a Creston Valley orchard.
Since 2011, he has been working through the land claims process with the federal government and is now entering financial negotiations to repay the LKB for appropriated land on Kootenay River Road and Highway 21.
“We’re always thinking of the membership, at present, and into the future,” he said.
Among the recent band accomplishments, he’s most proud of is the $500,000 in grant funding obtained by housing co-ordinator Debbie Edge-Partington to refurbish some of the community’s homes, which weren’t built to any particular standards. The funding has gone toward replacing or upgrading decks, plumbing, septic systems, and roofing, and Fortis has helped with the purchase of hot water tanks and heat pumps.
“Any problem that can happen with a house is happening with these houses,” said Louie.
He also appreciates the significance of having the LKB logo displayed on Creston RCMP vehicles, a move spearheaded by Staff Sgt. Ryan Currie to acknowledge general difficulty indigenous people have had with the RCMP.
“That’s a symbol of unity and also an acknowledgment of the traditional homeland of the Yaqan Nukiy people,” he said.
Looking to the immediate future, Louie hopes to bring the LKB members closer together, possibly by hosting more social events, such as dinners without mention of politics — he may hold the title of chief, but he and the councillors are simply part of the community.
“We want to show the community we don’t live and breathe these positions,” he said.