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Dehcho First Nations examines its options

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 3, 2011

DEH CHO - Dehcho First Nations will be examining both political and legal options for opposing the territorial government's decision to sign a devolution agreement-in-principle.

NNSL photo/graphic

Dehcho First Nations Grand Chief Samuel Gargan, left, and Dene Nation Chief Bill Erasmus protest the signing of the devolution agreement-in-principle outside the legislative assembly in Yellowknife on Jan. 26. - Tim Edwards/NNSL photo

Dehcho First Nations (DFN) plans to move its scheduled winter leadership meeting from Fort Simpson to Yellowknife to coincide with a Dene Nation special assembly that has been called to address devolution.

Deh Cho leaders would meet on Feb. 21 to 22 and then join other aboriginal leaders from the territory for three more days to discuss options, said Grand Chief Samuel Gargan.

By signing the devolution agreement-in-principle on Jan. 26, an act which DFN and the majority of other aboriginal groups in the territory objected to, Gargan said the legislative assembly turned its back on democracy.

"It's there to represent the views of their constituents and there has been a major reverse in that," he said.

"What's happening in Egypt is no different than what's happening in the North."

Gargan said the only difference between the two situations is that instead of using non-political methods to overthrow the government, like in Egypt, aboriginal groups in the territory will be using this year's fall elections to rethink who should be leading the territory.

The devolution agreement goes against the collective values and principals of the Dene people, said Gargan.

The agreement was reached without respecting the aboriginal groups in the territory for what they are, one of three orders of government.

"That's a major disappointment," he said.

The Inuvialuit have signed the agreement-in-principle and the Metis Nation plans to do so early this month but Gargan said there is no way DFN would sign.

The territorial and federal governments have made it clear that signing on is the only way to be involved in the process, he said.

Seeing the territorial government sign the agreement despite protests was upsetting said Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge of Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation.

Bonnetrouge and approximately 10 other Fort Providence residents were part of the protest outside of the legislative assembly on the day of the signing.

"For many of us it was kind of traumatic. Here we go being left out again of a very significant move," he said.

The signing showed the territorial government's lack of respect for aboriginal governments, Bonnetrouge said. They seemingly ignored the need to set out a place for aboriginal governments in the agreement.

"That thinking and that attitude has to change very quickly," he said.

"We have been and we will be major players in the future of the North."

The onus was on the territorial and federal governments to conduct the proper consultations with the communities on devolution and it is upsetting that wasn't done, he said. Bonnetrouge does, however, see one possible benefit from the situation.

In order to get DFN's approval of the agreement Bonnetrouge hopes the federal government will start getting more serious about making progress on the Dehcho Process.

DFN's ideas on management and how to take care of the land have been met with roadblocks.

"It's been very frustrating," Bonnetrouge said.

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