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New chief for Deline First Nations

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 4, 2012

Celebrations abounded on May 26 as the Deline First Nation swore in Leonard Kenny as chief and eight new council members were elected.

"I felt very honoured," said Kenny. "I was excited. I was thinking about the challenges ahead of me but I also thought about my own personal experience ... I come to the position with experience so I felt good and comfortable."

Paulina Roche, manager of Deline First Nation, stated in an e-mail to News/North that the election ceremony was followed by a feast and drum dancing until 11 p.m.

Kenny said this election had one of the best voter turnouts to-date - 58 per cent - and he is glad to see voters taking their voting responsibility so seriously.

"It's very important that they come out because it just makes us, the leaders, accountable," he said. "It shows that it's important to them who they select."

Kenny has two specific goals for his three-year term, he said, but if all goes according to plan, his term may be only two years.

"We've been working on self-government for the past 15 years and that's one of the things I'd like to see done while I'm chief," he said.

"My term is three years but if we do finish a self-government agreement within two years then we'll call for a new election."

Kenny said community support for self-government will be a driving force behind the speed of the negotiations but he and Deline chief negotiator, Danny Gaudet, see the agreement reaching ratification within the next two years.

"We're kind of hoping to have all the negotiations wrapped up by December," said Gaudet.

"Our self-government agreement, the main document that gives us all the powers, is pretty much done. The federal government is coming back with some suggestions on changes but if we review them and if they make sense we will adjust them but if not we'll just leave it the way it is.

"After that we get into ratification."

Gaudet said he doesn't expect a devolution agreement between the territorial and federal government to affect the progress of a Deline self-government agreement.

"You try to design (the agreements) so that they're compatible," he said. "So they work together rather than offend each other because the reality is all of this stuff falls under some sort of governance. It's going to have some effect but you try to eliminate that negative effect."

Kenny said his second goal is to see the government talking about a water strategy the Deline community can get behind.

"It's very important for this community because we sit on Great Bear Lake," he said. "We need to keep the water simply because it gives life and for aboriginal people, it's very important to us. The community developed a Great Bear Lake management plan, I think it's referred to as Water Heart, ... and it's been sitting on the shelf here for a while now so I (want) to use that module as the Great Bear Lake Management Plan."

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