Lukewarm support for public government
Some communities strongly support aboriginal self-government

by Glenn Taylor
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Sep 12/97) - Support for a public form of self-government may be weaker than negotiators had expected, according to a new survey of residents in the region.

The federal and territorial governments are currently negotiating a form of self-government with Beaufort-Delta aboriginal leaders that would link public town council together with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and Gwich'in Tribal Council.

While a recent survey of communities shows support for public government ranging from 40 to 100 per cent, some communities like Tsiigehtchic, Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk show nearly equal support (between 40 and 50 per cent) for a purely aboriginal form of self-government with minimal or no linkages with public governments.

Support for public government "isn't overwhelming, is it?" said chief negotiator Bob Simpson.

With some aboriginal leaders also questioning the merits of public government, it may be time to review whether the form of government being negotiated has enough broad support to continue pursuing.

"There are still a lot of leaders that feel public government is necessary, but some leaders want to know what their abilities and powers could be under an aboriginal government."

Inuvik, the only community in the region with a non-aboriginal majority population, showed overwhelming support for a public model, although just 13 per cent of homes were surveyed. The sample may be too small to glean accurate results, however.

Overall, about 63 per cent of regional residents surveyed are in favor of public form of self-government. About 22 per cent want strictly aboriginal self-government, while 12 per cent preferred keeping the government the way it is.

The survey "sends a message to us, and some surprises," said Simpson. He said a second survey will be conducted shortly. It will spell out in more detail the different options for self-government, whether aboriginal, public or none.

He said he hopes the new survey will give residents more information about the options, and that the results may be more conclusive.

Meanwhile, some aboriginal leaders have asked for more information on what purely aboriginal self-government means, and what powers they lose or gain by pursuing a public model.

While Simpson said he believes public government might be more efficient and unifying than separate aboriginal and public systems, he said "it doesn't mean separate systems couldn't continue to work well" under aboriginal self-government.

About 35 per cent, or 706 of 2020 homes in the region were surveyed. Inuvik had the smallest sample at 13 per cent, with Paulatuk and Tuk reaching 100 per cent of homes