Mayor John Helin

Mayor John Helin

Q&A with Lax Kw’alaams Mayor John Helin

Helin spoke about topics in his community ahead of the village’s upcoming election

Ahead of the election in Lax Kw’alaams on Nov. 19, The Northern View talked to Mayor John Helin regarding his first term in office, and what he would work on going forward if re-elected.

Re: A new ferry

Helin: What I’m doing right now is meeting with the provincial government. We’ve got one of the oldest ferries in the fleet, so we’re looking to replace it. I have a commitment from them to replace that ferry with a new one. It’s going to probably take three years to replace it. This old one will probably have to be re-fit one more time. And the new one should be ready by then.

Re: Housing in Lax Kw’alaams and Prince Rupert

Helin: We’ve got 42 new units in the village. We’re working on 60 units in PR that should be finished by the end of the year. All the money to do that work is already in place. We’ve got more than 1,000 members that live in Prince Rupert. So anything that we can do with affordable homes we love to do. We’ve got the land identified now, and we’re working closely with the city to ensure that we have them built.

Left to right: Mayor John Helin of Lax Kw’alaams, Mayor Lee Brain and Chief Harold Leighton of Metlakatla, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla and Prince Rupert in September. (City of Prince Rupert photo)

Re: Water supply line replacement upgrade & wastewater treatment plant

Helin: They’re all old infrastructure pieces. We’ve had assessments done and we’re replacing the fresh water supply to the village, the pipes that have to be change. That’s key for not just fresh water, but for fighting fires and any other emergency that might come up. And then dealing with the waste water, we’ve got a commitment from Indigenous Services Canada to deal with that.

Re: New emergency services building

Helin: That will offer an ambulance. It’s a home for the first responders in the community, we have a volunteer fire department. We also have a new fire truck, two new buses for members in the village and a new one for the school.

Re: Business issues

Helin: We set up businesses in Prince Rupert where we train a lot of our members. Getting them into good jobs has helped a lot. All the different partnerships that we’ve developed over a period of time have been key. We bought the Amonte building on Third Avenue West that we’re renovating right now, and that’s going to be a retail space along with a training centre. The fish plant brings a million dollars or more a year in wages to our members, who all live in the community. We have up to 80-100 employees. It’s been in operation for years, and never made much money, but it was always a big employer. But right now it’s making a bit of money, and we’re not going backwards. One of the biggest things that we’ve done is the paving of the roads from Tuck Inlet where the ferry lands to the village. We’ve finished paving all the roads in the community, which was millions of dollars.

Lax Kw’alaams Band Mayor John Helin spoke to the Standing Committee of Fisheries and Oceans on April 9 in Ottawa. (Government of Canada photo)

Re: Arts & Culture

Helin: We raised a pole in the school in the village. It was the first time a pole has been raised in decades there. We also started an initiative to have some of our art and history and culture displayed at the airport in PR.

And why was this important?

Helin: It’s our history. People have to understand whose traditional territory they’re coming into when they get off the flight. So we’re going to have a 30 foot traditional canoe and totem pole carved by one of our members and one of Metlakatla’s members. Plus some other pieces that will eventually be displayed there. We have another pole that’s carved that’s going to stand down close to the waterfront where the cruise ships come in.

Re: Health

Helin: It’s always a work in progress. With some of the social problems we have, we should have resources and the capacity to deal with them.

Things to work on moving forward

Helin: I talk about our forestry operation that the band bought years ago, we changed management there, and that’s doing pretty well under the circumstances. Going forward, there’s always things you can improve on. I think one of the biggest things is having our own members fill positions in the community, whether it’s housing or administration or so on. Human capacity is always key.

There are a lot of challenges, but I’m honoured that they’ve given me the chance to be elected leader for four years.