Hwitsum brings much needed perspective
Two weeks ago, I was at the Cowichan River Celebration and I found myself standing together with Lydia Hwitsum and Alistair MacGregor. It was on the heels of a very busy and strenuous week in Vancouver at the Union of BC Municipalities, and it was exactly what I needed: time in nature, next to the beautiful river, with Cowichan Tribes and the wider community coming together to express our gratitude for the river and our commitment to work together to protect it.
Members of the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative were there gathering footage for their documentary on local watershed governance in Cowichan, interviewing people who have been involved with the Cowichan Watershed Board. I spoke about my hope to see watershed governance expanded both geographically and in scope, and the work that I am doing as an MLA on this front.
Both Lydia and Alistair — each running in this federal election — were also being interviewed for the documentary. Lydia was asked about her role as the co-founder of the Cowichan Watershed Board, and how she ensured it was a table at which all stakeholders were sitting; Alistair was asked about being the Member of Parliament who has worked with the Watershed Board, Cowichan Tribes, the CVRD, and me to see positive and concrete steps taken towards getting a new weir for Cowichan Lake.
The filmmaker commented to Lydia and Alistair, “It must be a bit awkward since the two of you are running against each other.”
Without hesitation, Lydia responded, “We’re not running against each other. We’re both running for what we believe in.”
This response captures the essence of Lydia Hwitsum. I knew from the first time I met her that I would support her if she ran to be a Member of Parliament, but my support for Lydia has deepened the more I have gotten to know her.
Lydia has an impressive list of achievements. As a single parent to young children, she put herself through law school. She was chief of Cowichan Tribes for eight years, during which time she co-founded the Cowichan Watershed Board. She was elected to the BC First Nations Summit Executive and she has been on the board of directors of the BC Assembly of First Nations. She has also been board chair of the First Nations Health Authority.
Lydia has worked with international, national, provincial, and local organizations — her various roles and accomplishments are extraordinary. When I introduced Lydia at her campaign launch, I noted that I have never met anyone more qualified for elected office.
These qualifications are impressive, but there is another important factor in this election. At this moment, we are grappling with what reconciliation with Indigenous peoples really means. While we consider this question at all levels of government, we can only hope to truly shift if we make sure Indigenous voices are actually at the decision-making tables.
Our election campaigns have become deeply divisive, and I worry about the harm done to our communities as we battle over whom we and others should vote for. I consider Alistair a friend; I have very much appreciated the cooperative approach he has taken as a Member of Parliament, and I recognize the work he has done for this riding.
My support for Lydia is in no way a condemnation of Alistair. I am motivated to vote for her because of her skills, her accomplishments, and her demonstrated commitment to working collaboratively. I am also motivated to vote for her because I believe that we absolutely need the perspectives and voices of Indigenous women in all levels of government.
I am motivated to vote for what I want to see in politics, and Lydia is very much a person I want to see in our federal parliament.
The riding of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford has an opportunity to vote for a candidate who not only has over 20 years of experience in leadership, but for a candidate who will bring a much needed perspective to our federal parliament.