UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 4 |
Apr. 7, 2005
Education is Key says Student, Mother and Chief
By Brian Lin
As the spring term draws to a close, Kim Baird is probably
the only UBC student juggling term papers, final exams and
a re-election campaign.
Recently elected to her fourth term as chief of the Tsawwassen
First Nation, Baird first took office at the tender age of
28 -- one of the youngest female chiefs ever elected. Her
youth belies a long list of achievements, including a recent
agreement-in-principle with the governments of B.C. and Canada
for treaty negotiations and an accommodation agreement with
the Vancouver Port Authority.
The former, when finalized, will mark the first urban treaty
in Canada, while the latter will bring her community jobs,
compensation, and economic opportunities to the tune of $47
million over 30 years and settle environmental concerns that
stretch back three decades.
With ratification from 85 per cent of the Nation’s
voters, the agreement will allow Deltaport to embark on a
$1 billion expansion and provide full-time jobs for dozens
of Tsawwassen members, up from two at present time.
“It’s a time of enormous change and enormous
opportunities,” says Baird, 34. “It’s unfortunate
that the biggest driver of the negotiation was economic uncertainty
surrounding the expansion, rather than a desire to resolve
“But that doesn’t mean sincere relationship-building
hasn’t taken place.”
While most progress in Aboriginal land claims thus far has
been prompted by confrontation, Baird says, Tsawwassen’s
ultimate goal is reconciliation with provincial and federal
governments so it could focus on moving forward to ensure
economic and social stability, a task she feels must have
education as a primary focus.
“For First Nations to be participants in the provincial
economy, we need skilled people,” says Baird, who at
17, was the first person in her community to graduate from
high school in more than 20 years.
“There’s a real movement now not only to encourage
our children to pursue higher education, but for adults who
have been out of school for a while to finish high school
or seek advanced education.”
Baird herself decided to pursue her Bachelor of Arts degree
three years ago, almost a decade after she completed two years
of college immediately after high school.
“My friends and family think I’m crazy!”
says Baird, noting that she learned she was pregnant with
her first child soon after beginning courses at the department
Baird admits it’s a handful to be a mother, a student
and chief all at the same time.
“But many of my friends are seeing to it that I don’t
let school fall by the wayside, and my family wants me to
stick with it because they never had the opportunity.
“The way I see it, it really is an important aspect
of my personal development,” says Baird. “Besides,
there have been a few instances at the negotiation table where
I’ve used the latest academic buzz words to my advantage.”
Baird says areas such as political and historical geography
have helped her become more attuned to issues beyond her own
community and given her a more well-rounded perspective that
incorporates national and international experiences in the
Aboriginal treaty process.
She hopes that her “back-to-school” experience
will also rub off on her 18-month-old daughter, Amy, whom
Baird considers her biggest accomplishment to date.
“I hope she has the luxury of spending as much time
in university as she wants,” says Baird. “I really
think that post-secondary experiences can expand your knowledge
about so many things, from the world down to your own community.
But you really have to want to be there, as I do, to benefit
As for being chief, Baird says in a small community like
Tsawwassen the ability to work co-operatively with other leaders
is key to a successful political career.
“In an election, you may be running against your cousin,”
says Baird, whose recent opponent is a former chief who recruited
her to his staff 15 years ago.
“It’s important that we maintain a high level
of respect in our campaigns because more likely than not,
you’ll be working with them in some other leadership