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Gwich'in election set for Friday
Involvement key for tribal council to move forward: candidate

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gwich'in beneficiaries are heading to the polls tomorrow to vote in a new executive for the Gwich'in Tribal Council (GTC).

NNSL photo/graphic

Serena Wright, left, and Elizabeth Inglangasuk demonstrate how to cast an advanced poll ballot for 2012 Gwich'in Tribal Council elections. GTC beneficiaries who are unable to vote in Friday's elections were able to cast ballots at special stations Monday. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

The last GTC election was in 2008, when hundreds of mail-in ballots arrived at polling stations too late to be counted. As a result of this, GTC bylaws have changed and polling stations must be set up in every community with more than 100 voters.

In Inuvik, ballots can be cast at the Alex Moses-Greenland building throughout the day Friday. In addition to being open in Inuvik, Aklavik, Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson, ballots can be handed in for the first time at stations in Yellowknife, Edmonton and Whitehorse. Mail-in ballots are also due on June 22.

Current vice-president Mary Anne Ross is stepping down, leading to six candidates vying for her position Grace Blake, Ernest Firth, Janet Koe, David Kritko, Norman Showshoe and Margaret Spry.

Current president Richard Nerysoo is running to maintain his position within the GTC and is being challenged by Brenda Lee McDonald, born in Fort McPherson and raised in Tsiigehtchic, and Robert Alexie Jr.

The current council is failing to draw participation from the people they govern because of a lack of transparency and accountability, and it's time for that to change, said Alexie.

"These are the issues transparency and accountability. This organization has to return to the people. It has not been transparent, nor has it been accountable," said Alexie.

"I feel that there are enough people out there who have encouraged me to run, who are asking for change."

This is not a one-way process, said Alexie. Fixing the GTC means that beneficiaries also have to take more action within the council.

"The people have to play an active role in where this organization is going," he said.

The GTC will be looked to for input on key decisions like devolution in the upcoming term, said Alexie. The GNWT has stated interest on pursuing the issue in the legislature as early as this fall, and many GTC constituents are still unsure of how exactly devolution and the GTC's current court case against the GNWT for lack of consultation on the issue will affect them.

"People have not been consulted enough. They have not been consulted, period," said Alexie. "I see self-government teams going all over the country spreading the word about self-government, but no team going out there explaining devolution."

The GTC had a hand in this lack of consultation, he says. It commissioned a $230,000 report on devolution last year and commissioned an additional $56,000 on information sessions, though he alleged few knew about it.

"I would support the court case if that's what the people want. This is the people's money and the people have the right to decide whether or not we spend X amount of dollars fighting devolution."

After repeated requests, Nerysoo and McDonald could not be reached for comment by press time.

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