George Harry Jr. is the new chief of the Malahat Nation.
Harry, who has served as a councillor for the First Nation for the past four years, was recently acclaimed chief as no one else ran against him.
Elections for the three remaining councillor positions on the board will be held on June 10.
Harry said some of his main priorities as chief are to keep moving forward on projects to improve education and to bring more employment and housing to the reserve.
“We’ve been working on housing constantly for years and have seen our housing inventory increase by about 44 per cent in the past four years alone that have seen five families return to the reserve,” he said.
“It’s been quite a turnaround but there is still a lot of work to do in regards to meeting our housing needs, so we intend to continue to work in that direction. The Malahat Nation has a total of 367 members, with about half living off reserve, and we want as many to have the opportunity to come home as possible.”
As for job creation, Harry said the Nation’s economic development department is working hard to recruit companies to establish themselves on the 52-acre site dedicated to commercial uses on the reserve and bring jobs with them, not just for members of the Malahat Nation, but for the Cowichan Valley as a whole.
“We have outside companies now looking to lease land on our commercial site, but we are still negotiating with them so I can’t name them at this time,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to the jobs and training positions they will provide.”
Harry said the Nation also hopes to add to the five commercial tenants currently operating on the approximately 230 hectares of land on the reserve that was formerly known as Bamberton.
The government purchased the property for $9 million last year and handed it over to the Malahat Nation to become part of the First Nation’s treaty lands when a treaty is concluded and comes into effect.
“We’re in discussions with two or three companies that are looking to set up on that land to add to the five ones that are already established there,” Harry said.
Harry said work continues on constructing new health, day-care and recreation centres on the reserve.
He said senior levels of government are contributing funds to the three projects and the First Nation held a gala fundraiser for the projects last year that raised more than $300,000.
“We have another gala fundraiser coming up soon,” Harry said.
“There’s a lot going on in the Malahat Nation.”