Elders have their sayRoxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 13, 2010
Field, an adult educator with Aurora College in Fort Providence, was one of 17 people over the age of 50 who participated in the inaugural Elders' Parliament in Yellowknife.
Field said she didn't know much about parliamentary procedures so when she heard about the program, she decided to apply.
"It was a very good learning experience for me," she said.
After spending five days - May 3 to 7 - at the legislative assembly, Field said she admires MLAs for the long hours they put into their jobs.
"You have to be very dedicated and committed to be an MLA," she said.
Agnes McPherson represented the Nahendeh riding at the Elders' Parliament. Deh Cho Drum could not reach her for comment.
Elders' Parliament was developed to fulfil one of the purposes of the legislative assembly building. The building is dedicated to the people of the North, the wisdom of the elders and the vision of the children, said Danielle O'Neill, a public affairs and communications advisor with the assembly.
For the past 10 years the Speaker of the legislative assembly has been hosting a Youth Parliament for students in Grades 9 and 10. The program teaches students about consensus government and the role of MLAs.
The new program for elders, which will be held in alternating years with Youth Parliament, is more about capturing elders' knowledge and allowing them to voice their concerns, ideas and differing views, O'Neill said.
Unlike the youth program, where participants only get one day in the chamber, the elder parliamentarians spent three days in the seat of the territorial government. Also unlike the youth, who immediately assume all the roles of their constituencies' MLA, the elders were given the option of being part of the executive council.
On May 4 the participants gathered in the chamber for a mock territorial leadership committee. MLAs who were nominated gave short speeches on why they should be chosen for the council. On the following day the elders held a roundtable discussion with Premier Floyd Roland on Northern political development and the Northern leaders' forum.
Roland "appreciated the ideas and suggestions and the questions and concerns from each region," Field said.
Elders spent a final day in the chamber on Thursday for their mock parliamentary session. Participants presented their members statements and passed five motions.
In her statement, Field spoke in both South Slavey and English about Margaret Vandell, a former language instructor, whom she wanted to recognize. Field also moved the motion to establish an elders' senate and secretariat.
"We're losing many elders in our region and the oral tradition has to be passed on to the younger generation," she said.
As an educator, Field said she is concerned about culture and language.
"I think the elders have a lot of wisdom to share," she said.
The Elders' Parliament was well received, said O'Neill. When they first arrived some of the participants were shy, but by the end they didn't want to stop discussing ideas, she said.
It was good for the elders to come together as a group and share their wisdom, said Field.
"They were very passionate about their concerns."