A new beginning
Northerners will be celebrating a new territory in the West, too

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 19/99) - As April 1 fast approaches, it seems the NWT has been lagging behind Nunavut in its celebratory emotions.

We're celebrating the birth of our new territory, yet we're still missing some essentials, such as the mace, flag and coat of arms.

But what's involved in developing the symbols of state, which, after all, are the images we turn to and with which we identify?

Lynda Comerford, co-ordinator for the Special Committee on Western Identity, explains that developing the specific three symbols of state is a long process. And identity, as well as celebrating it, as a result, is a slow process.

"While Western identity is important, there are a lot of essential government things around that (April 1) too," says Comerford.

Nevertheless, the Committee on Western Identity has gone through a process called "expression of interest" with regard to the mace. From eight or nine submissions, four groups or individuals have been shortlisted to submit an official proposal for the design of the mace. By mid-April these will have been submitted.

While the design of the mace will be left to artists, the public at large who have interest may be able to have a say, however small, in the final look of the flag and coat of arms.

"There will be the opportunity to influence the design of the flag and the coat of arms," says Comerford. "With the coat of arms, we're looking at a questionnaire -- what is important to the people of the NWT. For example, colours and animals. We hand that stuff over to the Chief Herald."

"They also have to ensure that there are no two coat of arms the same in the world," adds Comerford.

According to Comerford, the NWT will follow that process with the flag as well, though an appointed designer will "no doubt look at the submission that we get."

The idea is that no one person will design the flag. Rather, people of the NWT will have the opportunity to submit their own ideas, which may then be incorporated into the overall design.

Meanwhile, in the absence of these ritualistic symbols, a logo has been designed to mark the importance of this year to the NWT. The logo states "NWT '99 -- catch the spirit."

Which is exactly what the Special Committee on Western Identity hopes the people of the West will do.

As assembling in groups goes a long way in asserting a common identity, plans are being made across the West to mark this historic moment.

In the capital there will be the launching of the Ceremonial Circle.

"It's an event from 9 to 10 p.m. (March 31) at the Ceremonial Circle, behind the RCMP building -- the capital site area. There will be speeches, raising of flags, and a tent left from the Caribou Carnival," says Comerford.

The flags raised will be those of the federal government, the NWT, city of Yellowknife, the Dene Nation the Metis Nation, the Inuvialuit Regional Corp., the Department of Defence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"It's the first significant event that we have on that site," says Ronna Bremer, public affairs officer for the legislative assembly. "Over the course of the next year we hope to have more ceremonies. Eventually, we'll have all the communities represented. It was designed to be a gathering place for the community."

Fireworks will be staged on Fame Lake at the Caribou Carnival site. The fireworks are set to go off at 10 p.m., to coincide with the eastern fireworks at midnight Nunavut time.

"The idea is to bid Nunavut farewell and good wishes," says Bremer.

"But also recognize the formation of this new territory as well."

"The members do not want to compete with Nunavut. We'll probably count down the division one minute before 10. Everybody is invited."