Talks at stalemate
DCFN and territorial government meet again

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 26/00) - Territorial government officials and Deh Cho First Nations' leaders have been meeting in Yellowknife this week in an attempt to finally resolve the GNWT's role in self-government negotiations.

Federal government negotiators have also been present for the roundtable discussions.

"We're not there to grab power. There's got to be trust and respect," Antoine tells Deh Cho First Nations.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jim Antoine appeared before the DCFN spring leadership assembly in Fort Liard last week and questioned how self-government will be achieved and implemented.

He said Premier Stephen Kakfwi is very pragmatic and wants to know how the DCFN plans to assume control over GNWT-run services such as housing, health and social services, education, justice and transportation.

"You want self- government, but how are you going to do it? That's what's confusing," Antoine said, and also asked how a Deh Cho government would be funded.

"Do you have any idea how that's going to happen?"

He suggested that by having the GNWT as a full party at the negotiations table, the territorial government could help facilitate a better agreement as they have with the Inuvialuit, Sahtu and Gwich'in.

"There's not only one trail to reach that goal. There are many options. Those options are up to you," he told the delegates.

DCFN Grand Chief Michael Nadli said for Antoine to question where the Deh Cho Process is going is "disturbing."

"If we're successful in our negotiations, there will be one government and that will be a Dene government," said Nadli. "We want to be our own boss."

Hay River Reserve Chief Pat Martell said he foresees the federal government redirecting the funding for GNWT programs and services to the DCFN.

"If we're asking for something like this, we can handle it. We know that," he said. "We know where we're going. We know what we want."

DCFN chief negotiator Chris Reid said the GNWT would likely retain a diminished role in the region, but the Deh Cho government will be the primary, public government. He added that the GNWT's refusal to directly answer questions about their intentions is creating apprehension.

"They (the elders) are still very nervous about what the GNWT's objectives are," Reid said.

Jean Marie River Chief Stan Sanguez suggested that many of the current MLAs are new and don't have a good understanding of the Deh Cho Process. Furthermore, he said the GNWT officials have been answering the DCFN's queries honestly.

"(Next week) we're going to ask you the same questions again," Sanguez said of the Yellowknife meeting.

The DCFN have been in favour of government-to-government negotiations with the Crown as took place with their treaty in 1921.

Antoine said the GNWT strongly supports the Deh Cho Process -- the DCFN's manifesto for self-government -- but added it's the federal government's policy and DIAND Minister Robert Nault's requirement that the GNWT be at the table.

"We're not there to grab power. There's got to be trust there, respect there," Antoine said. "I feel it is distracting from a lot of important issues in trying to reach a final agreement ... I truly want to urge you to get on with business."