by Natasha Caverley, Citizen Journalist
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
For Don Tom, the newly elected Chief for Tsartlip First Nation (W̱JOȽEȽP), these words from Barack Obama serve as a guide both personally and professionally.
Born and raised on the Tsartlip First Nation reserve in Brentwood Bay, Don, traditionally named Kwul’thut’stun, describes himself first and foremost as a member of the Saanich (W̱SÁNEĆ) People.
Chief Tom speaks both English and Hul’q’umi’num’, as his late grandmother, Nora Tom was originally from Chemanius in the CowichanValley. His ancestral lineage also extends to Ahousaht, BC with cultural connections to the Nuu-cha-nulth (Nootka) People. The Chief frequently references Nora as an important role model in his life.
“She led by example and was a hard worker. Growing up in an alcoholic family, my grandmother gave me strength and supported me… in being the same person you are at home as you are in the community. She taught me to be accepting of others and value the importance of continuing your education” states the Chief. The late Nora Tom was a ResidentialSchool survivor who worked on Michell Farm in Central Saanich.
A graduate of Stelly’s Secondary School, Don’s career path was always focused on community service with emphasis on supporting children and families. His first job was a summer student at Tsartlip First Nation serving as a day camp leader. From there, he went to CamosunCollege completing the First Nation Family Support Worker Program. A practicum placement at Pauquachin First Nation in North Saanich, led to the dual position of Assistant Health Director and Housing Coordinator.
In 2005 at the age of 23, Don was elected as a Tsartlip First Nation Councillor. Chief Tom reflects on the experiential learning that he gained from handling a range of community issues alongside the Chief and fellow Councillors such as the Health Centre strike. “Governance is about knowing how to make effective decisions…how to work with people’s strengths and setting healthy boundaries as part of the elected leadership for our Nation” states the Chief.
During a second term in office from 2007 – 2009, Don was one of 15 Aboriginal Youth selected from over 80 applicants to participate in the inaugural Aboriginal Youth Internship Program, providing him with an opportunity to work as a Youth Engagement Coordinator for the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the former Vancouver Island Aboriginal Transition Team.
After completing the Internship Program, Don was a Community Implementation Manager and Family Advocate at the South Island Wellness Society located in North Saanich, assisting southern Vancouver Island First Nation communities in developing and supporting community-based and culturally relevant approaches for the delivery of child and family services.
On December 8, 2013, Don was elected as Chief along with nine councillors to Tsartlip First Nation Council. Located on the Saanich Inlet. Tsartlip (W̱JOȽEȽP), part of the Saanich (W̱SÁNEĆ) First Nation, means “the land of maples” in SENĆOŦEN. The Tsartlip First Nation territory is centred on the Saanich Peninsula (Brentwood Bay) and southern Gulf Islands (Mayne Island, along Active Pass) with property in the Highlands that are a part of Tsartlip First Nation (TFN) holdings.Over the next two years (December 2013 to December 2015), with approximately 1,100 community members who reside either on or off reserve, Chief Tom and Council will serve as the elected representatives of the largest First Nation community on southern Vancouver Island. During Chief Tom’s career and life journey, the role of social support from community Elders, mothers, fathers, former Chiefs and Saanich (W̱SÁNEĆ) Nation leaders (both current and former) has been both humbling and rewarding. His father, Chris Tom, is a former Chief of Tsartlip First Nation, serving as an elected Councillor and subsequently as an elected Chief for the Nation from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. Chief Tom shared that, “my father reminds me of being true to one’s self. He gives me the necessary space to carry out my leadership role… providing encouragement and support at arm’s length and keeping me grounded.” It is through this social support from Tsartlip First Nation and the broader Saanich Nation that Chief Tom hopes to “lend a helping hand and develop relationships with neighbouring communities to both serve and give.”
Communications, community engagement and active listening are pillars of Chief Tom’s self-identified leadership style. Though Tsartlip First Nation (W̱JOȽEȽP) Council is currently engaging in strategic planning to determine their collective focus and set of priorities during their two year term in office, Chief Tom is committed to introducing himself to the Tsartlip First Nation (W̱JOȽEȽP) Elders, particularly as it relates to seeking initial guidance and direction on answering the following question, “how do we bridge and integrate our own (cultural) practices and governance processes to aid us in our community decision-making?”
Chief Tom is mindful that there is a substantial gap between governance and cultural practices in terms of how decisions are made on various community matters ranging from economic development, education to health and housing. “I would like to see Tsartlip First Nation reclaim its decision-making beyond the Indian Act…where we integrate our traditional governance structure of family representation in engaging the community…where heads of households invite ideas, share information and make decisions on community matters like the new Tsartlip First Nation Gas Station and Convenience Store…the reclamation of our traditional governance structure and protocols can aid in greater transparency and accountability back to the community” said Chief Tom.
Looking ahead, Chief Tom will be continuing the economic development opportunities that have been discussed and agreed upon through referenda—including the Tsartlip First Nation Gas Station and Convenience Store that is anticipated to open in Summer 2014. Identifying and utilizing new ways of engaging members through the use of social media, newsletters and community engagement planning with all facets of the community (e.g., Elders, Youth, parents, community members both on and off reserve) are areas of focus for Chief Tom as he and the Tsartlip First Nation Council look at how to get community members involved in various Nation-led initiatives. Also, finding ways to better support Tsartlip First Nation (W̱JOȽEȽP) community members in exercising their (Douglas Treaties) hunting and fishing rights as well as reclaiming the Nation’s child welfare system are top of mind for Chief Tom over the next two years.
Overall, Chief Tom is excited and optimistic about the future of Tsartlip First Nation— “we have a lot of potential in our Nation to tap into…we can be a role model of the future.”
Did you know?
The four Saanich (W̱SÁNEĆ) Nations are Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Tsawout and Tseycum.
Did you know?
In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed in a 4-3 decision that the Tsartlip First Nation’s (W̱JOȽEȽP) right to hunt was protected by the North Saanich Treaty of 1852, commonly referred to as one of the Douglas Treaties. This Supreme Court of Canada decision was based on the Ivan Morris et al. v. Her Majesty The Queen case. The Douglas Treaties allowed signatories and their descendants to retain existing village sites and fields for their continued use, the “liberty to hunt over unoccupied lands” and the right to “carry on their fisheries as formerly.”
Did you know?
The Aboriginal Youth Internship Program was first announced in May 2007 by the Government of British Columbia. The program was based on a commitment made in the 2006 Throne Speech to create and implement an Aboriginal Youth Internship Program in the BC public service.
Did you know?
Located on the Saanich Inlet, W̱JOȽEȽP (Tsartlip) is part of the W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) First Nation. Tsartlip (W̱JOȽEȽP) means “the land of maples” in SENĆOŦEN. The Tsartlip First Nation territory is centred on the SaanichPeninsula (Brentwood Bay, BC) and southern GulfIslands (Mayne Island, BC along ActivePass) with property in the Highlands that are a part of Tsartlip First Nation (TFN) holdings.
In addition to the band office and a number of community facilities such as the new Tsartlip First Nation Health Centre, the LÁU,WELNEWTribalSchool, the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board and the offices of the First Peoples’ Heritage, Language, and Culture Council are located on Tsartlip First Nation traditional territory.
For more information about Tsartlip First Nation, visit www.tsartlip.com.
by Ed Johnson, Citizen Journalist
Some readers may remember Premier Gordon Campbell’s health care initiative back in 2006 when a “Conversation on Health” was launched province wide in anticipation of improving access to health services. Many suggestions to decrease wait times for surgeries, increase primary care with family doctor clinics, and methods to determine outcomes were proffered.
Unfortunately hardly any of this translated into government policy, and here we are today with the same issues which have only become worse. According to The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, the number of general practitioners in BC who are accepting new patients declined by almost 70% between 1999 and 2006 while the BC population grew by 7.5%.
During a recent forum entitled “A GP For Me”, attended by over 160 people, including physicians, nurses, municipal leaders and members of the public (but no one from the Ministry of Health), it was discovered that one-third of the audience had no physician at all. And of those that did, many had to travel some distance for their appointments – becoming a hardship for the elderly.
Doctors are getting older too. In one case a local general practitioner suddenly took early retirement leaving hundreds of patients without recourse. It is estimated that 40% of the current practicing physicians will retire in the next 15 years. As well, many doctors are only working part time. Substituting walk-in clinics is the only avenue left for those unable to source a doctor accepting new patients.
The GP For Me forum, organized by the newly formed South Island Chapter of the Divisions of Family Practice, which boasts 98% buy-in by local doctors, was another attempt to shine a light on the realities of present day health care. “This is the first time family physicians are coming together to work collaboratively with the community to develop better ways to improve access to health services,” reported Dr. Robin Saunders, Chair of SIDFP. Andrew Hume, Executive Director, adds, “As physicians retire or reduce their workload as they move toward full retirement, the problem of people being able to find a regular family doctor is going to get worse over time unless we can attract new doctors into the community and create more attractive work options that will help the doctors we have stay in active practice longer.”
Several solutions, although a repeat of past recommendations, where developed by the forum.
It was suggested by many that the most obvious solution was to establish collaborative medical clinics, staffed by several doctors, nurse practitioners (NP), and other services. Simple issues, such as vaccinations, treatment of cold and flu symptoms could be treated by NP’s, leaving the doctors free to treat more serious conditions.
As well, the loss of a doctor in these clinics would not be catastrophic for the patients. It would be up to the clinic to replace or add to their staff as required.
That this would reduce visits to emergency clinics, and thereby saving health dollars, is not disputed. “We need to look at developing new models to deliver primary care such as larger group practices where cross-coverage can be provided within a group of doctors, and clinics that can act as a medical home where individuals and families can access a range of services from family doctors and other providers,” says Mr. Hume. In addition, Moderator for A GP for Me, Linda Nehra, emphasized the need for incentives for recruitment of graduating doctors for the lower island. “Why would new grads come here and stay here and what can we do to make that happen?” New grads come out of school with debts of $250,000.00 and find that the highest paying positions are in the north.
“We need to collect information to better understand the extent of the problem and to help us to plan physician recruitment and retention to address future needs,” according to Mr. Hume. “Through things like the community forum and health surveys, we are beginning to pull this type of information together.”
Dr. Ambrose Marsh, Chief of Staff, Saanich Peninsula Hospital, gave an update on the local hospital. “We opened a new Operating Room in 2012, and the Post Anesthetic Recovery Room just started a few weeks ago. The new Emergency Room in 2003, the new OR and the PARR came from you. This is the strength of this community. Needs were assessed and the community came together. We need to be very proud of that.”
“Success for me in this initiative is that we will have quality of life, and quality of care on the peninsula.”.
Grade 12 Stelly’s Secondary
Honourable Mention : Humanitarianism
I walk for a long time. My hands lost in my pockets. My eyes lost in the bubbling horizon. Without the excitement of Christmas, and without the reckless joy of New Year’s the streets are cold and grey. It’s just January: all the children are back in school, the loud, button-up Hawaii shirts are back in their dressers, the shops have taken down the “clearance” signs.
I hope mom has calmed down now; if we get another noise complaint we could get evicted. She only had about ten minutes in her when I left, and fortunately, this time, the slap had more cigarette ash and Captain Morgan’s than force. I try to turn off the rerun of the fight playing in my head. I drift past couples and families, all bundled against the cold. I follow the pull of my stomach. It brings me to the bridge.
Every car that blows past is a great palm pressed against my back, pushing my diaphragm into the frosted metal bar. I wedge the scuffed toes of my rip-off Converse between the iron spindles and curl the flesh of my stomach around the rail, letting my head hang. Tar coloured tendrils writhe in front of my face like snakes. Gravity pulls my cheeks towards the river, which rages underneath me like a stampede of moviegoers from a burning theatre. Tumbling and churning, it crashes against the banks and throws itself toward the ocean – as if it is afraid to freeze. I sigh, watch the cloud of condensation tangle. A stale scream that is too tired to make sound, stumbles out of my oxidized vocal chords. I close my eyes and I’m back in the darkness of my bedroom:
I’m sitting on the floor, peeking through the inch wide gap between the door and the frame. Beneath the yelling I can hear the soft whistle of Hayley’s breath, muffled by the distressed blanket she’s pushed into her mouth. Her legs wrap around my hips, her cheek flat to my chest. Jacob sits beside me, fingering the cuff of his Scooby Doo pajamas. I smooth Hayley’s knotted hair with one hand and gently press Jacob’s head into my side with the other, trying to keep him from seeing our parents unravel. Though, maybe if I hadn’t, he would understand why Dad left. Lizzie hadn’t been born yet; I’m glad.
I thrust my palms against the rail and stumble backwards. My lower back hits the rail behind me, sending vibrations through my spine. My hair explodes around my head, detonated by a speeding car. I hear it stop. A voice reaches across the snow encrusted ground, calling for me to get in.
“I thought you were gonna jump!” He laughs and leans into the turn. “But that’s ridiculous; I should stop watching so much TV… So how’s life? We haven’t hung out since like… Middle School or somethin’.”
“Yeah it’s been a long time.”
“Hey… Are you going to the winter prom with anyone?” He’s holding his breath. The heated air trapped in the cab of his 2012 Mercedes is made thick with old memories of us as children playing together after school, and the phantom scent of plastic toys in the afternoon sun.
“No, I’m not going.”
“What? Why not? Do you not have a date?”
Tickets cost $75.
“No, I am away… on a spa trip with my mom… ‘cuz my dad is going away for business.”
“Oh… That’ll be fun… Yeah, I was just asking to like, see if you wanted to like, tag along… With me and my date… Y’know.”
“Hey, thanks for the ride, you can just drop me over there in front of that boutique.”
“Oh, uh, yeah! It’s getting dark though, I could just like, drive you home or somethin’.”
“Ahh… It’s okay, I just…”
“It’s pretty cold, why don’t you let me buy you a coffee or something. We can just talk, catch up, y’know?”
I glance at the dashboard, its 7:30. The complex will be hushed and dim. Mom will be lying limp in front of a Murray rerun. Hopefully, the kids will be asleep.
“Sure, that’d be nice.” I ease back into the leather seat. “It’s been a long time.”