Western constitution needs your help
Round two for community consultation in West

by Anne-Marie Jennings
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 20/98) - It's up to the people.

The second round of constitutional consultations in the Western Arctic kicked off last week in Yellowknife with committee members leaving the important decision -- the future government structure in the west -- up to the public.

In its newly-released workbook, the Constitutional Working Group presented two approaches to a constitution for the new western territory following division in April 1999.

The first approach, called combined government, would see aboriginals and non-aboriginals represent residents of the western territory in one single territorial government.

The second approach, known as the government-to-government model, would see intergovernmental agreements negotiated between aboriginal governments and public governments to create partnerships in the West.

Constitutional Working Group co-chairman George Kurszewski, the co-chair of the working group who also represents Metis of the South Slave, said there is one approach which he feels is the better one for the Western Arctic for the time being.

"(The government-to-government approach) is indeed the answer," Kurszewski said. "I believe the Constitutional Working Group is giving answers to the western constitution question.

"Getting a answer now is important -- not only for the future leaders of the new legislative assembly next year but for the entire system of government in the West."

While there are many important issues that still remained unsettled, including the name of the new western territory, committee member and Nahendeh MLA Jim Antoine said the present focus has to be on reaching a consensus on the models offered.

"If we got into discussing what the Western Arctic should be called, that is the only thing which would be discussed and would take focus away from the constitution," Antoine explained.

Yellowknife North MLA Roy Erasmus, also on the committee, agrees public input is a priority.

"I don't think it's fair to put words into anybody's mouth who aren't here," Roy Erasmus, MLA for Yellowknife North explained. "You can't really say a certain group of people are endorsing a model when they haven't done it.

"I think that it's our job to go out and consult with the general public and see what the public thinks."

The committee will be embarking on visits to the communities in the next few months.

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