© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Prince Albert Grand Council vice chief incumbent Brian Hardlotte is seen on the bank of the North Saskatchewan River in Prince Albert this week. Hardlotte is up against newcomer Christopher Jobb in the bid for a vice chief spot during the Oct. 21 to 22 election at the Allan Bird Memorial Centre.
As watchdog for the government’s compliance with treaty rights, Prince Albert Grand Council vice chief Brian Hardlotte wants to continue the uphill battle.
“Unity is very important to unite and deal with the treaty challenges that we have, as First Nations people,” he said this week.
“We have to unite -- and I stress that’s something we always have to say to the people and the leadership. We must unite and we must work together if we want to get things done for our communities.”
Hardlotte’s first three-year term wraps up this month, and an election has been called during the Oct. 21 to 22 Prince Albert Grand Council annual assembly at the Senator Allan Bird Memorial Centre in Prince Albert.
The incumbent will face off against newcomer Christopher Jobb from Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation.
Hardlotte said that his experience will be to his benefit -- as both a band councillor at the Lac La Ronge Indian Band for six years and as Prince Albert Grand Council vice chief for the past three years.
He credits these nine years in politics as giving him the confidence that he can do the job for another three years.
“I respect this position,” he said. “When you’re dealing with 38,000 people … it’s a tough job. You’ve really got to be in it, and put your heart into it if you’re going to serve the people.”
As a treaty-based organization, Hardlotte said that his key focus will continue to be ensuring treaty rights are adhered to.
“We’re the watchdogs -- the Prince Albert Grand Council -- if there are any threats to those treaty rights, those inherent rights,” he said.
One aspect of these treaty rights currently receiving press is the right to First Nations education, with the Prince Albert Grand Council’s 12 member bands joining 74 from across the province in drafting their own education acts, rejecting the federal government’s proposed First Nations Education Act.
“The main issue in the last two years has been the government with their plan to legislate our treaty right to education, and we say ‘our’ treaty rights -- it’s our inherent right,” Hardlotte said. “Our treaty right should not be legislated -- that’s not where it belongs.”
Prince Albert Grand Council bands have been taking care of their own education system since 1972, he said, adding that the only real problem with the current setup has been limited federal government funding, at a rate well below provincial standards.
I’m healthy, I got the support from my family, I got the support from my First Nation -- my chief -- and first and foremost I have the experience to support the First Nations out of the Prince Albert Grand Council. I have that confidence and experience … I really care for our First Nation communities. Brian Hardlotte
Another treaty right that faces barriers is the provision of what was supposed to be free health care.
“A lot of our First Nations are aging, and in Treaty 6 we have the “medicine chest’ … and we were promised not to pay for any health costs or medication, and today a lot of our First Nations are paying for their prescription pills,” he said, adding that First Nations people also face transportation costs related to health care.
On-reserve housing is also a sometimes-dubious situation -- another symptom of limited funding, he said.
In addition to funding, “there tends to be a jurisdiction issue, also, because the province said we’re federal jurisdiction, and yet they want us to vote in this province.
“It should be a dual jurisdiction for the province not to say … We can’t help you because you are federal jurisdiction.”
Other areas Hardlotte said that he plans to focus on are sports and recreation and the Women’s Commission -- an organization within the Prince Albert Grand Council mandated with ensuring women are “respected and safe in communities and also urban areas,” he said.
As his first term comes to a close, Hardlotte said that it took some thought as to whether he’d run for re-election -- an opportunity that he concluded made too much sense to pass up.
“I’m healthy, I got the support from my family, I got the support from my First Nation -- my chief -- and first and foremost I have the experience to support the First Nations out of the Prince Albert Grand Council. I have that confidence and experience … I really care for our First Nation communities.”
The Daily Herald profiled Hardlotte’s opponent for the vice chief position in Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Herald, an article that can be read by clicking HERE.