Chuck McCarthy was on a fishing trip when he received a call from his wife telling him he had earned back his position as the Ucluelet First Nation’s president. Minutes later, his daughter called to celebrate the good news with him as well.
“There was quite a bit of excitement,” McCarthy told the Westerly News. “There’s a sense of uplifting.” McCarthy secured 86 votes in the First Nation’s May 8 election, defeating Christina Klotz, 43 votes, incumbent Les Doiron, 31 votes, and Gordon Taylor 30 votes.
“I want to thank the people who have faith in me and voted and even the people that didn’t vote. I’m hoping that we move down a positive road in the next four years and to bring us back up to where we were when we signed the treaty,”
McCarthy told the Westerly News. McCarthy served as president when the First Nation became self-governing after signing the Maa-nulth Treaty in 2011. He lost his seat to Doiron by a slim 86 to 79 margin in 2015.
McCarthy told the Westerly that soon after that election, community members began asking him to run again. “It started early, within the first year of the new president. It was just one of those things that people might have had second thoughts on what the results were,” he said.
Political discourse has been tense in the First Nation’s community of Hitacu. In July, 2017, protestors demonstrated outside their government building and attempted to evict Doiron from the community. Shortly afterwards, a group of Ucluelet First Nation members calling themselves ‘Concerned Citizens for Change’ began publicly demanding more transparency from their elected leaders.
“People just wanted simple answers from the leadership,” McCarthy said. “It’s important for our people, especially through our legislature, to feel like they know what’s going on. For us as citizens, speaking for myself over these last four years, very little information actually flowed to the people.”
McCarthy assured his new government will be as transparent as possible and will not hesitate to share information with community members.
He said one of his first priorities will be economic development and he questioned recent decisions made around the Nation-owned Wya Point Resort and the Nation’s lands at the Tofino-Ucluelet junction.
“We have to reevaluate where we’re going,” he said. “We’ve leased out our surf shop and the restaurant there and now we’ve leased out the junction, which has potential. And at Wya Point now we’re on Airbnb, which is not where we want to be and I don’t think it’s where the citizens want to be.”
As president, McCarthy will work with a legislature of six members who were also elected on May 8.
Jenny Touchie, one of the leading voices in the ‘Citizens for Change’ movement, received the most votes among the Member of Legislature candidates with 159. She is joined by fellow successful candidates Alan McCarthy, 124 votes, Jeneva Touchie, 124 votes, Lorri Touchie, 122 votes, Richard Mundy, 121 votes, and Joyce Patrick, 103 votes.
There is also a seat on the Legislature for a representative of the Nation’s Hereditary Chiefs, Ha’wiih, but that position has been in flux since Wilson Jack was temporarily removed after being charged with elk poaching in 2016.
McCarthy said he hopes to see the Ha’wiih representation restored so that the community can once again benefit from its hereditary leadership and suggested Jack has completed all the conditions placed on him by both the provincial court and Ucluelet First Nation.
“It’s a positive thing and I think it’s been lacking and that’s been hard to endure for a lot of people within the community because it just divides and polarizes people” he said. “I’ve talked to Wilson about it. Once the Chiefs have their meeting, we’re looking forward to filling that seat as soon as possible…We’ll go from there and work to get the feeling of community back and who we are.”