Slow it down, say Rae Dogrib
Rae residents say good constitution more important than meeting deadlines

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 16/97) - Rae residents are worried the territorial government, in its haste to meet the deadline of division, is rushing public consultation on the constitution.

"This isn't something to be taken lightly," said elder Alfonse Eronchi.

"I see a lot of people from the outlying communities here with us this evening, and I'm sure they want to go back and discuss what we've talked about here with the people of their communities."

"There should be more time so we can hear what more people have to say," said George Mackenzie, vice-president of the Rae-Edzo Education Society.

About 40 people, most of them elders, attended the constitutional hearing, held at the Rae senior citizens home Monday night. Eronchi was one of four residents not involved in politics or land claim negotiations who expressed their views.

Facilitator Sue Herron-Herbert shared the head table with constitutional working group member James Wah shee.

Dogrib Treaty 11 Council Grand Chief Joe Rabesca noted at the outset the meeting was overshadowed for some by the death only a half an hour earlier of an elder.

Monday wasn't the first time the working group heard that the process is being rushed. It recently announced a second round of public hearings will be held following a redrafting of the proposal, which is expected to be complete by the end of July.

The group has also expressed some skepticism a new constitution will be in place in time for division.

During a break, one non-native resident of Rae said those running the meeting showed a woeful ignorance of formalities that are traditionally part of such meetings in the community.

"This is a new idea for the elders," said Rabesca, a day after the meeting. "I think they were a little nervous, and I think they had a right to be nervous."

Both Rabesca and Ted Blondin, land claim negotiator for Treaty 11, noted that the constitution presents the people with their first opportunity to have a say in the kind of government they will have.

"Government has been making decisions for us for far too long," said Blondin, noting the federal government has traditionally controlled use of land and resources and the territorial government controlled community affairs.

"This is an opportunity for us to participate at the central government level, an opportunity we've never had before."