Friday, March 21, 1997

Putting the pieces together

In a process that has been flawed from the beginning, at least Yellowknife's portion of public consultation on the draft constitution is offering food for political thought.

And it's boiling down to two issues: 1) just what is democracy and 2) should we wait for the land claims to be settled before developing a new constitution.

On one side of the issue, some aboriginal people are saying there won't be much left to govern if we wait for federal negotiations with claims groups to wrap up. They also say that the one person, one vote interpretation of democracy doesn't acknowledge collective rights.

On the other side, some non-aboriginal people are saying that the current NWT Act is flexible enough to accommodate changes over the next 30 years and individual rights and freedoms are an integral part of democracy.

To complicate matters, a minority wants to see a new constitution now but isn't sold on the proposed two-assembly model.

Undaunted, Territorial Aboriginal Affairs Minister and Constitutional Working Group co-chairman Jim Antoine is determined to put a constitution before the public for a vote this October.

However, he has been convinced that the original draft document unveiled last October will not be the one that the public votes on.

If work is to proceed on a constitution regardless of public opinion, perhaps those opposed would be better advised to put their energy into working towards a mutually acceptable solution.

Who knows, if enough of us work together to get the job done, we might even come up with a proposal that a majority would vote for.

For those who remain steadfastly opposed and uninterested in conciliation, they can still express themselves in October. ( 3/21/97 )

Questioning the police

One has to wonder why the RCMP found it necessary to detain a 75-year-old woman for 18 hours while investigating a case of massive phone fraud.

She was detained after entire households were arrested. Sweeping arrests indicate sweeping generalizations by the RCMP about who they were arresting.

Yellowknife is a changing city and policing has to change too. The RCMP has to ensure that their officers are trained to cope. However, in the absence of any sensitivity to Yellowknife's multicultural makeup, a little common sense might come in handy. ( 3/21/97 )

Women in power

Nunavut's architects want to ensure women hold half the seats in the new territory's legislative assembly.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jean Chretien wants a quarter of all Liberal candidates to be women and the NWT Status of Women's council is urging women to choose a political life. Why all this concern?

Women -- and men -- should ask themselves why women are so reluctant to enter politics. Is there something wrong with the political environment? And if so, would more female politicians change that? One thing's fore sure: the status quo won't help us find the answers. ( 3/19/97 )