Kwakwaka’wakw chief Bill Wilson claims that he was the first Native leader to sit on a float in Vancouver’s Pride parade, and he also says he is a passionate defender of gay rights.
In an interview with the Georgia Straight about his candidacy for national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in this month’s election, the West End resident began crying while talking about the issue.
“My attitude about that is, gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, what is the fuss about?” Wilson said by phone June 29. “These are people. They have human rights, and if the religious right dumps on them, I think they’re full of shit. I don’t like it, and I’m glad [former U.S. president] George Bush is gone, because any kind of oppression like that is an oppression of me.”
Added Wilson: “I gotta tell you, that’s one thing that really pisses me off about [Stephen] Harper and that religious-right horseshit. I cried when they passed a law in California to allow gay marriages and then eight years later—or whatever it was—they rescind it via referendum. Now how bloody stupid is that?”
Wilson, a grandfather of three, will find out July 22 whether he can beat out AFN B.C. regional chief Shawn Atleo and chiefs Terrance Nelson, John Beaucage, and Perry Bellegarde to the position vacated by Phil Fontaine. Wilson said he is confident he has what it takes.
“I looked at them and I thought, ”˜Christ, I have more experience at the national level than all four of them combined,’ ” Wilson said. “I particularly like John Beaucage, and I thought, ”˜What the hell, I’m 65 and healthy.’ ”
When asked about Atleo, Wilson deadpanned: “One day, after I serve two terms, he’s going to be a good national chief.
“I think Shawn has a lot of talents and a lot of energy, but he doesn’t have the national experience,” Wilson said. “Nothing against him. I would never run a negative campaign, but I just know that it’s quite a different thing to be cute and articulate and quote platitudes that please non-Indian people. It’s quite another thing to sit at the table and negotiate with people like Mulroney and Vander Zalm and be there in the heat of the moment and have the wherewithal to do it.”
Wilson said he helped get Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, amended and passed into law during the reign of then–prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Wilson also takes credit for helping get the treaty process off the ground in B.C. And aside from rights in the LGBT community, Wilson said he finds the poverty within the First Nations community and the Trail of Tears murders of women hitchhiking on Highway 16 particularly troublesome.