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Sober leaders, fairer settlements top Lafferty's list

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Rae-Edzo (July 25/05) - Newly-elected North Slave MLA Jackson Lafferty said companies looking to exploit natural resources in the region should be prepared to reach "fair" settlements with its residents.

"Industry should treat all First Nations the same," Lafferty said four days after winning a by-election for the vacant North Slave seat.

"They are operating on our traditional lands. Out of respect for the people... there needs to be fair agreements."

The battle over access to aboriginal lands gained attention earlier this month when the Yellowknives Dene threatened to blockade a winter Road to the Snap Lake Diamond Mine, operated by international mining giant De Beers.

The mine also lies within traditional Tlicho lands, which comprise most of the North Slave region.

The issue was one of several Lafferty discussed during an interview with News/North in Yellowknife Thursday.

The 35-year-old father and former superintendent with Diavik Diamond Mines defeated two opponents Monday in a closely-contested battle for the North Slave riding. Lafferty captured 478 votes, Nora Doig, 400, and DeeDee Steinwand-Leblanc, 132).

"I would like to congratulate my competitors," Lafferty said. "They ran because they wanted to make changes in their communities."

The seat became vacant earlier this summer when disgraced former cabinet minister Henry Zoe resigned after being convicted of resisting arrest.

While he shied away from discussing the Zoe case specifically, Lafferty said political leaders should be role models.

Dedicated and sober leadership will be even more important with the creation of the Tlicho Government, Lafferty said. The political body, which comes into effect early next month, will give the four Tlicho communities unprecedented control over their lands and resources.

"People not only need sobriety from their MLA, but also their government," Lafferty said.

Lafferty, who lives in Yellowknife, was criticized by opponents during the election for not residing in the North Slave riding.

Lafferty contended however, that by living outside of the largest community - Rae-Edzo which boasts nearly 65 per cent of the Tlicho population - he could better serve the three smaller centres.

He plans to remain in the capital, where his young children are attending school.

A former band councillor in Rae, Lafferty said he will focus the next two years on improving social programs for youths and elders.

"We need to build on our strengths," he said.