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NNSL Photo/graphic

The three Northern premiers held two days of meetings in Iqaluit last week. Although all have different challenges, they all agreed on one key point, they need more support from Ottawa. From left are Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik, NWT Premier Joe Handley and Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie. - Kent Driscoll/NNSL photo

Premiers renew united front

Kent Driscoll
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Nov 13/06) - The three Northern premiers held a two-day meeting in Iqaluit last week and almost every recommendation agreed upon was aimed at the nation's capital, and at Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The leaders are at different stages of negotiating the transfer of federal powers to their respective territories. The Yukon Territory has achieved devolution, the NWT is negotiating, while Nunavut has just started.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Northern Co-operation Accord issues:

- New Territorial Formula Financing
- Infrastructure
- Federal service cuts
- Devolution and resource sharing
- Canada's sovereignty
- Circumpolar relations
- Climate change
- Domestic violence
- Northern Court of Appeal
- Removal of gun registry

When Premier Paul Okalik was asked about the advice Premier Joe Handley has given him on the devolution file, Handley couldn't stop the smile from breaking out on his face.

"Joe was very active in those discussions. It has been very frustrating exercise for his government. He shared his experience very actively," Okalik said.

"My advice would be not to let it take 20 years," said Handley.

In their Northern Co-operation Accord, the premiers called for the establishment of a Northern Court of Appeals. The territories are currently served by the Alberta Court of Appeal, and the premiers think there is a need for a unique Northern court.

Sovereignty is a pet project of the federal Conservatives, and the premiers made sure to put a sovereign bow on the top of their box of requests for federal action.

"The focus has been on military presence in our waters. We require constructive plans that would so that we have healthy communities throughout the North," said Okalik.

Climate change has already shown signs of hitting the North first and hardest. All three premiers were quick to point that out.

"Our goal is to stress that in the international community, and we know we can not do it ourselves," said Okalik of addressing climatic effects.

While the premiers did their best to convey the impression of a working meeting they appeared afterward without their ties on.

Students from the model legislature program were in attendance, and the youths received recognition from the group of three, with Handley calling them the "future occupants of those chairs" while gesturing to the adjacent legislative assembly.