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No promises from Kakfwi

Some Inuvialuit and Gwich'in negotiators not impressed

Lynn Lau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 10/01) - Premier Stephen Kakfwi and most of his cabinet descended on the Beaufort Delta Interim Regional Council meeting last week in a show of support for the self-government negotiations, but the chief negotiator for the Inuvialuit and Gwich'in was not impressed.

"We didn't even get any strong words of verbal support to provide support or resources in terms of preparing for self-government," said Bob Simpson. "All they said was we have to work together. I keep asking them questions but they keep on coming up with no response, or 'We're working on it,' or 'It's not our responsibility, it's the federal government's responsibility.'"

Simpson's main criticism of the territorial government has been of its reluctance to provide municipalities with money to support self-government activities like workshops and meetings. While the aboriginal governments like band councils and community corporations are given money by the federal government to prepare for self-government, municipalities like town councils, are considered by the federal government to be a territorial responsibility.

The interim regional council meets twice a year, but this is the first time that it was so well-attended by the territorial cabinet, with ministers Jim Antoine, Joe Handley, Michael Miltenberger, Vince Steen, and Roger Allen, all present. Although the negotiators may not have got what they were looking for from the ministers, the chief of the Gwich'in Tribal Council applauded their show of support.

"To get the premier and cabinet here shows there's a genuine interest in what's going on here," said Chief Fred Carmichael. "We're grateful that the premier is showing that interest. I think we've come a long way towards building a good relationship -- government to government to government."

On the first day of the meeting, Tuesday, Kakfwi made a 20-minute speech, speaking broadly of the growth of the Northern economy and the territories' profile on the global scene. "The last two years since we've been elected has been a very exciting and productive time," he said. "Most of you will acknowledge that the Northwest Territories as we know it is changing and changing dramatically."

Kakfwi and his ministers seemed to have very little to say in terms of the self-government negotiations.

The premier said afterwards that the main reason most of the cabinet came was to take advantage of the gathering of community leaders. "It's a unique opportunity for ministers to meet the community leaders. Every MLA should know every chief, every mayor in the NWT since we're the legislature.

"We make laws for these people, we should at least know who they are," Kakfwi said.