Bertie Wapachee, the former chairman of the Cree Health Board (CHB), has been elected to the Grand Council of the Crees/ Cree Regional Authority (CRA) for a two-year term as the representative for Nemaska.
Wapachee goes from being the head of the CHB and making all the important health decisions, to “being a part of a special group the makes decisions on Nemaska’s behalf.”
After having his position “suspended” by the board of directors of the CHB, the board elected Charles Bobbish as acting chair. Wapachee asked himself, was this really a suspension of the position, or an easy way to let him go? Either way, he now finds himself elected to a position which happens to be a part of the Grand Council. The same Grand Council that Wapachee knocked heads with over the Paix des Braves agreement.
He feels that it could have been handled much differently. “I disagree with the way it (the firing) was handled, the approach that was taken, and the amount of time that it took to get some answers. I wish it could have been done more face to face.”
But Wapachee feels it’s time to move on. “I also don’t want to waste their time talking about me when they’ve got better things to do. They’ve got services to run and to provide for the people, and I feel that’s more important than arguing or debating. They made the decision they felt they had to make at that time. I have no hard feelings towards anybody, four years is a good time,” he said.
Nonetheless, Wapachee thinks Cree political culture should evolve to include more openness and transparency.
“If you have something to say, you (should be able to) say it.
No matter what position you have or how high your horse is. It’s that freedom that we keep, and I don’t want anyone to take that away from me,” said Wapachee.
Now, however, he just wants to move on with his life. “I had my own personal stuff going on. My grandfather passed on, and everything hit all at once, and I felt I needed a new start somewhere. So when I was nominated (for the CRA), I gladly accepted.”
Recently on a CBC North talk show, Wapachee’s situation was the topic of discussion and one of the people interviewed about his situation was Diane Reid, the CRA representative at the CHB.
She said that Wapachee was forced out because he made decisions without consulting the board or following protocol. She also added that it had nothing to do with his position on the Paix des Braves. Specifically, Reid said Wapachee had unilaterally dismissed some consultants without consulting the board.
Wapachee replied the next day on CBC that he had talked with senior managers and the consultants. Everyone agreed that there wasn’t any work for them to do at the moment and the consultants were let go until there was more work.
Wapachee emphasized that any decisions were made with the full knowledge of the board, and that Reid’s information was incorrect. “Everything she said, that was the information she had, and knowing Diane whatever she knows of any situation, that’s what she’ll say,” he remarked.
But Wapachee still believes that his position on the Paix des Braves lead to his ouster at the health board, telling the CBC he had been warned by a major Cree politician to watch what he was saying. “As soon as the agreement was signed, I was told not long after that that there’d be repercussions. If this is it, then I guess they meant it.”