Her desire to speak for the North has prompted Mavis Erickson to jump into the political fray.
The former Carrier Sekani Tribal Chief and Harvard Law School graduate is running for the Liberals in the Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies riding.
“The Liberals needed a strong candidate in the North, someone with a strong voice, a strong presence in the North,” she said. “I think I have that.”
She was born and raised in Fort St. James and after receiving her education, returned to the North. She practices law in Prince George and provides advice and services to First Nations bands and government throughout British Columbia and across the nation.
In 2000, Erickson worked for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada as its Special Representative on the Protection of First Nations Women’s Rights. Additionally, she has held coordinator roles for the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, BC Ending Violence Association, Human Rights Watch, and the Highway of Tears Coordinator for Carrier Sekani Family Services. In 1995, Erickson was awarded the University of British Columbia’s Highest Achievement Award for Native People and the Law.
“One of the things I appreciate about the Liberal Party is they were able to conduct the missing and murdered women inquiry within a short time frame,” she said of her decision to run for the Liberals. “They struck the commission and had the work done within three years. That has yet to implemented, so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done there.”
She says the North needs to be on an even footing with other parts of the country.
“Basically, we in the North need to benefit more from our resources,” she said. “We don’t have good transportation in the North … we don’t even have Greyhound. We need to start having better linkage of communities for safety reasons as well just being more accessible.”
As a former sessional professor teaching First Nations Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and as a researcher, she has been closely connected to post-secondary education. Her husband Paul Michel, former Chief of the Adams Lake Indian Band, was the director of UNBC’s First Nations Centre for 12 years and is currently Executive Director, Office of Indigenous Education, for Thompson Rivers University.
She acknowledges that she is in a tough riding, as it has elected a Conservative Member of Parliament for the past 40 years. However, she says it could be time for a change.
“There’s always a chance, don’t ever leave it chance, give it a run, give it your best run and see what happens,” she says. “People are genuinely really excited, I’m really excited. We’re all really upbeat about the next 25 days.”
She says climate change is certainly becoming a bigger issue, nationally and locally.
“Climate change is getting more and more urgent, something has to be done,” she said. “I agree with the need for a climate change plan.”
She is also forgiving of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who threw the campaign into turmoil last week when pictures of him in brown-face and black-face surfaced.
“It happened a long time ago,” she said. “He apologized. I think his apologies were really heartfelt and I think he truly was remorseful about what happened and we have to more forward from there.”
Erickson is looking to unseat incumbent Conservative MP Bob Zimmer as are Green Party candidate Catharine Kendall, New Democrat Marcia Luccock, and People’s Party of Canada candidate Ron Vaillant.