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Small communities say focus is on big centres

Handley proposes resource revenue sharing agreement between First Nations groups

Jorge Barrera
Northern News Services

Ndilo (Nov 26/01) - Chiefs from small communities say the territorial government is not treating small and large communities the same.

They raised the issue around the table during the Dene leadership assembly in Ndilo last week.

"There has to be greater balance in the distribution of money (in the territories)," said Aklavik Chief Charlie Furlong in a separate interview.

"There is too much emphasis on infrastructure in bigger centres like Inuvik and Yellowknife," said Furlong.

Furlong said the inequity is forcing smaller communities to depend on larger centres.

"It's the all roads lead to Rome syndrome," said Furlong.

Tsiigehtchic Chief Peter Ross said he wants a police officer in his community.

Ross raised the issue during a question and answer period with Jim Antoine, minister of Resources Wildlife and Economic Development.

"The smaller communities have problems," said Ross. "There is bootleggers and drug dealers passing through the community and the community puts pressure on the leadership to come to a solution."

Antoine, the former justice minister, said under new regulations two RCMP officers must be posted in any community creating higher costs.

Ross said he doesn't buy the argument his community of 200 is too small to have police officers.

"We used to have RCMP but they pulled them in the 1970s," said Ross.

"For the last 10 years I have raised this issue," said Ross.

Lutsel K'e Chief Archie Catholique said the territorial government needs to rework its formula when it comes to building schools and community facilities.

Territorial Finance Minister Joe Handley said he hears the communities "loud and clear."

He told the assembly he would meet with cabinet colleagues and open up each department's books so the could see where money is going.

Revenue sharing

Handley said he'd like to see First Nations groups work out a resource revenue sharing agreement among themselves. It will prevent any economic disparity between have and have-not regions, he said.

"We've floated it, but it's up to them," said Handley.

A possible framework could look like this:

A region could take a portion of their revenue, keep 75 per cent and redistribute 25 per cent to the other regions.

If each region with development did this, those regions with no development would still reap some benefits.

"It's more fair," said Handley, adding the government would never legislate such any agreement.