Two options for constitution
Round 2 of the constitutional process for the West is under way

by Anne-Marie Jennings
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 15/98) - Western NWT residents are being offered two options for a new constitution: what they have now and what was rejected in last year's round of talks.

Though members of the Constitutional Working Group are divided on the issue, co-chairman Jim Antoine said Tuesday that the public's choice will be the most important.

"I think generally the members have their own preferences," he said as the group unveiled its new proposals.

"The focus in the second round of consultations is to go to the communities and try to generate dialogue in session with the public."

The first model, a combined government approach similar to the group's previously preferred model, would see a single level of government, with some members representing only aboriginal residents and MLAs for non-aboriginal residents.

The second model, the "government-to-government" approach, would allow both an inclusive, public government and separate aboriginal governments, similar to the existing system.

George Kurszewski, co-chair of the group, was not as impartial as Antoine with his opinions.

"Aboriginal people do have the responsibility for our own affairs and, of course, their own governments," he explained.

"It's a very difficult thing to have that reflection come through in a combined-government approach."

While Kurszewski conceded that some partners in the group feel the combined government may be more acceptable, the final decision will be left to the public to make.

He is also talking about what he said are the drawbacks to a combined government for the Western Arctic.

"The combined government approach would make the West like some type of stew," Kurszewski said. "The Western Arctic is unique in the world and all of the different variations have to be recognized.

"We have to make it more like a banquet than a stew."

The first round of public information sessions on the new proposals is scheduled to take place next Tuesday, beginning with a session at the legislature.

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