South Slave worried about NWT's future
Large turnout in Fort Resolution for constitutional meeting

by Cheryl Leschasin
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 31/97) - More than 65 people attended Fort Resolution's recent public meeting on the proposed constitution.

It was one of the best turnouts so far in the series of meetings being held across the western Northwest Territories. But the highest profile Resolution resident, Premier Don Morin (left), wasn't among those in attendance, disappointing some Fort Resolution residents.

And lack of advance notice continues to pose problems.

Several people at the meeting had reportedly expected Morin, though not a member of the constitutional working group that put together the draft proposal up for discussion, to be there. But he was in Lutselk'e, attending a previously arranged band meeting.

Morin did, however, manage to attend the Lutselk'e constitutional meeting, held March 25 and attended by approximately 15 people.

"Recently, I spent 10 days going door to door discussing the constitution in Fort Resolution," said Morin about his absence. "There was enough notice that I could have cancelled my previous commitment, but once I'm in a community, I like to stay there."

Fort Resolution Chief Don Balsillie explained that the residents of Fort Resolution were notified Morin would be in town to address questions and concerns about the constitution in mid-February. Four people attended that session.

However, there are questions about the advertising for the Morin session. Resident Sharon Lafferty, for example, said she never saw any bulletins or advertisements informing residents of the February meeting.

At both the Fort Resolution and Lutselk'e meetings, the most pressing constitutional concern raised was the lack of time available to read the document.

"The community leaders and residents need time to consider the options," said Balsillie. He said further internal meetings are required to develop a more comprehensive community gathering to discuss the constitution.

Other concerns of Fort Resolution residents included issues such as the make-up of the legislative assembly, guaranteed representation and how the community will fit into the constitution.

Lutselk'e residents also plan to hold further meetings. Residents there said their foremost concern is the protection of treaty rights.

Residents of both communities and the rest of the western NWT may have a another shot at grilling the authors of the constitutional proposal.

After complaints about the first round of meetings, a vote on the proposal originally planned for October was been delayed indefinitely and more public meetings may be in the works.