Mr. Speaker, the Committee of Political Leaders met last night to discuss the reactions of their constituents to the report from the Commission for Constitutional Development, and to consider options for how to proceed from here. The following were present representing their respective organizations: Messrs. Roger Gruben, President, of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation; National Chief Bill Erasmus, Dene Nation; Gary Bohnet, President, Metis Nation; Willard Hagen, President, Gwich'in Tribal Council; George Cleary, President, Sahtu Tribal Council; and, Chief Eddie Erasmus, Dogrib Rae Band. M.L.A. Charles Dent, Yellowknife Frame Lake, represented the Legislative Assembly, and I was there for the government. While not Members of the Committee, M.L.A. Henry Zoe, North Slave, was also in attendance, as were Chief James Ross, Fort McPherson; Chief Eugene Pascal, Aklavik; Chief Peter Ross, Arctic Red River; and, Chief Everett Kakfwi, Fort Good Hope.
All parties reported that their memberships were generally comfortable with, and supportive of, the directions recommended by the commission. They also noted that, for most communities, the focus right now is on community transfers and self-government at both the community, and regional level. Developing a constitution for a territorial government, for a western territory, and for all residents, remains a priority. However, there was general agreement that an initial focus on models for self-government, at the community and regional level would inevitably lead to the development of models for a territorial government soon after.
It was agreed that the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation would draft an initial work plan, and an interim budget, for the consideration of other members based on the above principles, and on the assumption that the national constitutional package, now before Canadians, will succeed. Other members would then have an opportunity to review the work plan and suggest amendments, with the hope that, before this session of the Legislative Assembly is complete, they would be in a position to table a document in the House for your consideration.
Members of the commission had the opportunity to present their report at the annual assemblies of most of the aboriginal organizations this summer. I tabled the commission's report in the Assembly last June with the intention that this House would be able to take the time to discuss it, in committee of the whole, later this session.
Should you make this choice, the members of the committee would welcome the opportunity to come before this House to present their assessment of the commission's report, and to outline their goals and objectives for the coming months.
I was impressed with the enthusiasm and the commonality of purpose expressed by all members of the committee. I believe it is very worthwhile to encourage this momentum by inviting the members to present their views, and to table before us a proposal for a work plan to get on with the important business of constitutional development for a western territory. It is my strong impression that, while regional and aboriginal institutions have become an important part of the political landscape, there remains an expressed commitment to a public government for all people of a western territory.
In doing so, we should recognize the support and the desire expressed by members, on behalf of their constituents, that the work must begin with the community first. The community transfer initiative offers communities and regions not only the chance to develop plans for self-government, but to begin to take on greater powers and responsibilities right now. Members of the committee see the community transfer initiative as an interim step towards self-government, and they will support the initiative so long as it remains broad and flexible. They made it very clear that a centrally driven process, narrow in scope and ladened with pre-conditions, will not meet the needs of their communities.
Mr. Speaker, while this statement has focused on community transfers and self-government in the western Northwest Territories, I wish to make it very clear that the east has not been left behind. Already five eastern communities, and the Keewatin Regional Council, have informed us that they wish to begin discussions on community transfers soon.
I want to thank each committee member for the positive attitude they brought to our discussions last night, and I urge the Members of the House to give serious thought to their proposals. I want to also extend a special thanks to the six commissions chaired by Mr. Jim Bourque, for their efforts in setting forth a foundation from which we can all build.