Wallace Fox won't run again for Onion Lake chief
Onion Lake Cree Nation Chief Wallace Fox will not seek re-election when community members head to the polls on June 15.
In an interview, Fox said he made the decision in response to concerns from some of the membership, and it is a personal decision he made after many years of service to the community. He said the move should not be seen as a resignation.
“At this point in my life, right now, I don’t want to see myself as an old, old man, sitting in leadership and politics, when there is a personal life that you can live,” he said.
“In the public eye, you’re always under scrutiny; you can’t really be able to have your own life.”
Fox has been in the news in recent years as a leader in the challenge against the federal First Nations Financial Transparency Act, as well as a partnership with the Poundmaker First Nation in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government alleging it has failed to protect First Nations’ oil resources from outside drilling.
Fox has also recently made headlines due to personal troubles that have led some to question his leadership. A letter asking for his resignation was sent to the band council in November, after he was charged in connection with domestic violence allegations. He is scheduled to stand trial on June 29 and 30 in Lloydminster provincial court.
Following a recent interview, Fox watched a video about the Onion Lake Cree Nation that included footage of him leading an attempted entry to Parliament Hill during an Idle No More protest in 2013.
“I wish I had never done that,” he remarked.
He said the duties of his role as chief have worn on him over the years, despite his enjoyment of the position. He gave examples of caring for band members, and compared his own actions as a leader to those of provincial and federal politicians and their constituents.
“Do people drive up to Premier Brad Wall’s house on Sunday morning at 9 a.m., when he is out getting ready to go golfing? No,” Fox said.
“When I’m at home, cutting wood or fixing my chainsaw to go cut wood on Saturday morning, people drive up, and as part of my role to help our community I go to the house, offer them tea or coffee, and I listen to them. Does the leadership do that? Do the MLAs do that? The MPs do that? No.”
Regarding his future plans, Fox said, “Word spreads around.
“I was in Vancouver for the AFN (Assembly of First Nations) meeting that they had over there; people have offered me employment. Ottawa, I’ve got calls, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, to work, so I will not be out of employment. Other First Nations have asked me, ‘Well now that you’re not going to be chief, why don’t you consider coming to help us?’ The opportunities are there, and I’m not terribly concerned as to where I’ll get my paycheque from.”
Dunlop Muskego, director of operations for the First Nation, said he disagrees with Fox’s decision not to run again, and hopes he re-thinks his position.
“I don’t speak for all the membership, but at this point in time, we don’t support that,” Muskego said.
“I agree with the fact he has put a lot of years and effort into leading the nation, but he has done more for this community than most people have ever realized, and for that alone I would suggest and recommend he re-think his position.”
According to the First Nation’s website, Fox was first elected to the Onion Lake band council in 1983 at the age of 21. The Onion Lake First Nation includes lands on both sides of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border near Lloydminster.
Published on March 1, 2016.