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Decision time for Monfwi

Nathalie Heiberg-Harrison
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 29, 2011

The future of Monfwi's caribou harvest, the GNWT's devolution agreement and affordable housing are on voters' minds in Behchoko, Whati, Gameti and Wekweeti.

In the Oct. 3 territorial election, they will have to decide whether Jackson Lafferty, who is minister of justice and minister of education, culture and employment, has earned the right to be re-elected as their MLA.

Eddie Chocolate, the chief of Gameti, said he is still undecided.

"I think that whoever is running should really be in touch with the people in the communities and he should talk about the issues that are really important to them," he said.

"Sometimes we don't hear from our MLA on these issues. We're not getting any feedback."

Alfonz Nitsiza, the chief of Whati, said Lafferty's role as minister got in the way of him representing the people who elected him.

"There were some issues when we really needed his presence in our dealings and our meetings. His other job as minister took away from that," he said.

Chocolate said there are ongoing problems with housing and education in the North Slave communities, and widespread disappointment with how the caribou harvest, devolution agreement and now-defunct Wildlife Act were handled.

"There was a lot of hardship for a lot of our communities, like Wekweeti. Now they can't shoot caribou, they can't do nothing. And to go other places for the Bluenose (caribou), it's going to cost a lot of money, so they're kind of in a bind," he said.

This year, Tlicho residents are allowed to harvest 150 Bathurst caribou, with priority given to Wekweeti residents.

Members of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation have a limit of 150 as well.

Nitsiza said the Tlicho government recognizes caribou herd numbers are down, but should be able to make their own decisions on how to handle it.

"We'll all benefit from whatever we work on together, but it's just, for me, (the GNWT) says they have it all, they know it all, and it's their way or the highway. That approach never works," he said.

Chocolate agreed elected politicians need to consult with aboriginal leaders more often, and said the devolution agreement, which has next to no support from aboriginal governments, is an example of what happens when there isn't enough consultation.

Nitsiza said this boardroom approach to dealing with things doesn't work, and that the housing policy needs to be changed so it works from the bottom up, not the top down.

"It's not designed to accommodate people," he said.

So far, only Lafferty has confirmed that he will be running to represent Monfwi in the Oct. 3 territorial election.

He was unavailable for comment by press deadline, according to a GNWT media liaison.

The nomination period for candidates runs between Sept. 5 and 9.

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