A partnership approach
Territorial-aboriginal relations being redefined

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 25/00) - During the last government it was "empowerment." This time around "partnership," and all its variations, has become the catch-phrase of government.

Premier Stephen Kakfwi has called on chiefs to, "quit sitting back and being so critical."  He wants them to tell the government where the money should go.


Premier Stephen Kakfwi and his cabinet have stated aboriginal leaders will play an integral role in the development of government priorities and policy.

In his sessional speech, delivered Tuesday, the premier recalled the goal-setting meeting of MLAs earlier this month in Fort Providence and cabinet meetings since, but said the path the government will take has not yet been defined.

"Before this can be done, we need to meet with the Northern aboriginal leadership to obtain their input and a commitment to work with us, because we cannot do it alone," said Kakfwi.

Involvement of aboriginal leaders is not being limited to offering advice on the general direction the government should take.

Finance Minister Joe Handley said Wednesday aboriginal leaders will be involved in any decisions flowing from an efficiency review of government operations.

"We want to discuss this with other stakeholders, particularly the aboriginal leaders, before we get into any detail on it," said Handley when asked by Inuvik MLA Floyd Roland if downsizing was part of the review.

While the government appears willing to share power with aboriginal governments now, (it will have no choice once self-government agreements are settled), Kakfwi said it's too early to tell exactly how it will be done.

"We haven't even met with them yet," said the Sahtu MLA.

"But it's very real. We're trying to talk to them as governments, as the elected leaders of governments," the premier said.

The government is both inviting and challenging aboriginal leaders to get involved. Kakfwi called on chiefs to, "quit sitting back and being so critical. Tell us where the money should go."

Kakfwi said social problems such as alcoholism and abuse within families are costly problems that can only be solved through the combined efforts of both governments.

Aboriginal leaders who believe self-government will be a magical cure for their communities woes are fooling themselves.