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Second seniors' group in Resolution

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 19, 2011

An effort is underway in Fort Resolution to create a second society to represent the community's senior citizens.

Deninu Ku'e First Nation (DKFN) has launched the initiative to create what's being called the Deninu Ku'e First Nation Elders' Society.

Despite that name, Chief Louis Balsillie said the new group will be open to all older residents of Fort Resolution, just like the existing group for seniors.

It is expected the new group will be formed in the new year, he said.

"We gave it until Jan. 12."

Balsillie said the step has been taken because he regards the existing Deninu Ku'e Seniors' Society is a "defunct" group since it is not officially registered as a society with the territorial government.

"Right now, there is a seniors' society in the community, but they can't access dollars," he said, adding that means the community is missing out on funding.

Therese Villeneuve, president of the existing seniors' society, disputed the description of the group as defunct, even though it is not an officially registered society.

"We are functioning. We are operating as a group," she said. "We have members and we have regular meetings and we have programs and so forth. We apply for funding and we get funding and we run programs."

She said the organization has been functioning since 2002 when it regrouped, after forming in 1985.

Villeneuve noted the Deninu Ku'e Seniors' Society is represented at the NWT Seniors' Society.

In fact, she is vice-president of the territorial group.

According to information from the GNWT's corporate registry, the Deninu Ku'e Seniors' Society was a registered society from August of 1996 until its dissolution in June of 2009.

Villeneuve is not sure why Balsillie is seeking a new group for seniors.

"I just think he's doing it so he can get more money for whatever reason he wants," she suggested.

Villeneuve said the DKFN's move may be because of her society's opposition to a band-supported road upgrading project on Mission Island and the fact she has previously run against Balsillie to become chief.

"It's all a vendetta for him," she said. "He can't let things go."

Balsillie disagreed that he may be motivated by past disagreements with the existing seniors' society or with Villeneuve.

"People get the impression that I am, but I'm open," he said. "I wasn't brought up to be that way. I respect my elders."

Balsillie noted some elders feel they do not have a say with the existing seniors' group.

"Let's form a new board where everybody can have a say," he said. "I had a few elders telling me it's nothing but a headache the way (the existing group) is run because they're not really being heard or treated fairly."

For her part, Villeneuve expressed concern that Balsillie will create more division in the community.

"Do one thing and do it good and then maybe add something else to it, but he's always jumping here and there and all over the place," she said. "Anything that he does, it always creates division."

Balsillie noted the initiative has the unanimous support of DKFN band council, which discussed the idea at its Dec. 8 meeting.

It has not been decided if the DKFN will appoint a board of directors for the new society or whether the board will be elected, and its relation with DKFN is still to be determined.

Balsillie noted Villeneuve has even signed up to become a member of the new society.

Villeneuve admitted she signed up, but just to get information.

"I'm curious as hell as to what is going to happen."

Balsillie said, as of the middle of last week, a half-dozen people have signed up for the new society.

The chief claimed the new society will be a member of the NWT Seniors' Society, adding he has already been in contact with the territorial group.

Barb Hood, executive director of NWT Seniors' Society, said community groups do not have to be formal societies to be represented at the territorial organization.

"Some are, some aren't," she said, adding she has no knowledge of the status of the Deninu Ku'e Seniors' Society.

Hood said the territorial group won't be involved in the issue of two societies in Fort Resolution, noting that is for the community to work out.

As for Balsillie's statement that he has already spoken to the territorial society, Hood noted any such contact would be anonymous and confidential.

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