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Incumbent chief pledges he'll go to detox if re-elected

Jennifer Obleman
Northern News Services
Monday, August 6, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - An unusual campaign promise came from incumbent chief Peter Liske at an all-candidates' forum at Dettah Thursday night. If he is re-elected Tuesday, he'll enter a 28-day treatment program.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Incumbent chief Peter Liske said at an all-candidates' forum at Dettah Thursday night if he is re-elected Tuesday, he'll enter a 28-day treatment program. - Jennifer Obleman/NNSL photo

"If I'm elected, I already made arrangements to go to a treatment centre," he said, addressing a question from the crowd on the importance of a chief staying sober.

The statement on sobriety was only one facet of Liske's platform, which focused on the need to look beyond the treaty and seek out economic development opportunities.

"We need that economic base to sustain ourselves. Yes, the treaty is important, but let's re-evaluate and look at other options," he said.

Liske, who was elected Yellowknives Dene Dettah chief in 2003, also stressed his leadership experience.

About 50 people came out to Dettah Thursday night to hear the four candidates running for chief in Tuesday's election. Running against Liske are former chief Richard Edjericon, longtime councillor Edward Sangris, and Ted Tsetta, who has been involved in mapping the band's land claims.

The forum started at 7 p.m. and debate continued until midnight. Candidates took questions from the audience about issues including housing, squatters, roads, and health. They also outlined their campaign platforms.

Edjericon, who was a councillor from 1992-1999 and Dettah chief from 1999-2003, highlighted his accomplishments as a leader and his close ties with territorial and federal politicians, saying he would be meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Yellowknife on Wednesday."If I'm elected Tuesday, I will bring the elders to meet the Prime Minister Wednesday," he said.

Other pillars of Edjericon's platform include accountability and transparency, negotiating a final Akaitcho agreement in five years, developing a five-year business plan, and addressing social issues through initiatives like creating prevention and education programs for diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis and training security officers to enforce community bylaws and deal with addictions and stray dogs.

Retaining culture and language were key issues for Sangris, who said observing tradition is essential in building a better future. He wants to up the number of drum dances to four a year and teach the Dene language to young children.

"If we spoke our language, we'd be one strong nation nobody could break," he said.

Sangris also emphasized the importance of having the Dettah chief live in Dettah.

"I've heard a lot of people saying they think they're alone at home," he said. "There's no chief living in the community of Dettah now, and that's one thing I want to see changed."

Land claims and unity were two central topics in Tsetta's platform.

Tsetta described his experience growing up on the land, trapping with his parents. He said protecting the land was central to strength and survival.

"The only way to protect our people is to grab that land and hold on for dear life," he said.

The land is also valuable for reviving traditions among youth, for healing, and possibly for justice.

"If it's not a serious crime, let him go work on the land. Let him cut logs for people's houses," Tsetta said.

He also said his experience in the mining industry would be an asset in negotiating Impact Benefit Agreements with companies accessing band lands.

All four candidates spoke about the importance of unity among band members and the need to support one another.

Yellowknives Dene band members go to the polls on Tuesday to elect a new chief.