This is page numbers 913 - 942 of the Hansard for the 12th Assembly, 7th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was chairman.

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Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 937

Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

Mr. Chairman, it has been my view, as a Minister -- and I think the federal Minister articulated at the opening of the constitutional conference that we're not going to have three territories; we're not going to have six either in the western part of the territory -- there are going to be two territories and so whatever self-government aspirations we have, whatever political or constitutional aspirations we have as a people in the western territory, we have to accept certain realities. At this time, it seems to be that they're not setting up territories for 2,000 or 3,000 people.

Those of us who wish to pursue this can. I just think it's going to be a couple of generations before it's realized. As long as everybody accepts the difficulties of certain scenarios, it's not a problem. Nobody wants to undermine those things. But it's important, in any case, to try to get clear what it is that groups really want. For instance, if it becomes clear that the general public, the treaty public, the aboriginal public, is willing to take a decrease in the levels of services they have in order to come up with a complex system of government, that would entail, for instance, very strong regional governments. That's a message that all political leaders have to take.

As long as it's clear that's what people want, there is no agenda on our part to undermine that. But, at the same time, as a government, if a group like the Deh Cho would say we want to set up our own government and it is going to be such that there is a change in the level of service but that's our mandate in any case, we might find that we need to, not so much challenge it, but make sure the people who are going to enjoy or suffer the change in the level of service have a chance to endorse that or reject it. That's the thinking on our part. There's no secret.

As a Minister, I've talked to the Deh Cho directly and I've talked to Treaty 8 as well and have said that I don't think it's realistic to suggest that we can actively support the territory separating. In the case of Treaty 8, it would just be for a few hundred people; and in the case of the Deh Cho, it would be a few thousand people but I don't think it's economically realistic and I've yet to hear anybody suggest that I'm wrong on that count.

At this time, the federal government is not hard-lining this. They want to find out more, as I said, about what the Deh Cho wants and why they are choosing the route they are. If there is any possible way to meet the wishes of the Deh Cho people through another approach, I think that's what the federal government wants to do. We're certainly trying to be involved in those talks to help with that. Thank you.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 937

The Chair John Ningark

Thank you. General comments. Mr. Antoine.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 938

Jim Antoine Nahendeh

I would like to ask the Minister if he and his ministry are providing any resources, financial or in terms of advice, such as this government has done for the other claimant groups in the past? Are they providing that kind of service to the Deh Cho? Thank you.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 938

The Chair John Ningark

Thank you. Mr. Minister.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 938

Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

With land claim negotiations, I was taking the view that it is primarily the function of the federal government and all funding for it should come from the feds. Where there are requests for assistance, advice and support by different groups, we've always taken a very positive approach to trying to meet that.

We think the federal government should also fund self-government negotiations. It should be seen as incremental costs and something the federal government should provide money for. If there is a specific request from groups, if they ask us to take a supportive role or to try to do certain jobs on their behalf, with their support, we would again be very happy to try to do that. Thank you.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 938

The Chair John Ningark

Thank you. Mr. Antoine.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 938

Jim Antoine Nahendeh

It's obvious that this department is not very supportive of the Deh Cho position and it would be good if the Minister and his department could work with the people of the Deh Cho to try to come to a good understanding. I don't think that's happening. I want to say that the people from the Deh Cho are people from the Northwest Territories too, and this government is to provide programs and services to everybody on an equitable basis. There is an opposition between this department and the Deh Cho. There are different philosophies. The Deh Cho are people who don't really accept anyone else's philosophy except their own. So you have to try to find a way to work together. That is the only point that I am trying to make.

Some time ago, Treaty 8 people had approached me to raise an item in Caucus. Treaty 8 wanted to meet with Caucus regarding the boundaries that were signed by this government. Mr. Kakfwi, the honourable Minister, was supposed to meet with them. Has any meeting taken place and what was the result of that meeting? Thank you.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 938

The Chair John Ningark

Mr. Minister.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 938

Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

Mr. Chairman, Treaty 8 has indicated they are willing to meet with Caucus. A meeting with me was not what they were asking for. So we have passed it on to Caucus. I think it is important to make some comments here about the rift between certain political leaders in the Mackenzie Valley. It involves the former regions and members of the Dene Nation, as well as myself. When the comprehensive claim of the Dene-Metis collapsed, there was an alternative given that those people who wanted to reject the comprehensive claim. There was no alternative given to people of the communities to vote on it. The Dene assembly rejected, although it wasn't unanimous, the comprehensive claim, rather than give people a chance to vote on whether they wanted to reject it or accept it. They elected to throw it out. There was no leadership provided to tell the people what

the options were. People will recall that the Gwich'in left, the Sahtu left and that was the end of the Dene Nation.

The Gwich'in have gone on to settle their regional claim and so have the Sahtu. The Dogrib are now proceeding with that. The original dream of the Dene Nation was that the entire Dene up and down the valley would work towards one government for themselves, Metis and non-aboriginal people. That is the vision that many of us had when we originally came to support and believe in the Dene Nation. The Deh Cho says that for whatever reason, they elect to separate themselves from the other Dene from up and down the valley. They want their own separate territory. We can't rewrite history. The Dene wanted one government for themselves and they still believe if they put a proposal in front of the Deh Cho people, in front of the Treaty 8 people and give them two options: one, small regional governments; or, one single government for all Dene, Metis and non-aboriginal people, they will go for the one-government system. This is what has been driving me for half of my life. So it is a political rift. I can't, in all honesty, go to the Deh Cho and say I am going to support you blindly with whatever you want. I can't do that.

I don't think it is realistic to say if the Deh Cho people want their own separate territory, let them divide. We have to find a way to meet the things they want in a larger territory. I would suggest the Deh Cho may find that they are not the only people who have principles that they believe in. They will find that the original members of the Dene Nation would strongly support almost all of the principles that are contained in their proposal. They have to make an effort to meet with the Gwich'in, the Sahtu, the Dogrib, Treaty 8, and Members of the non-aboriginal public to say here are the things we believe in, let's all work on it together. That is what started in the first constitutional conference. I have no qualms about saying the things that I don't think are going to jibe. I also have a tremendous amount of optimism about the Deh Cho meeting its aspirations. We will just have to take a different approach. It is through discussions that we are going to do it. In one meeting to discuss self-government, we were kicked out of the room. The next time we were allowed to stay, but for only part of it. We are still insisting we want to keep working. We are trying to make a positive effort. Thank you.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 938

The Chair John Ningark

General comments. Mr. Antoine.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 938

Jim Antoine Nahendeh

It is good to be reminded of a little history to put things into perspective. It is always painful to go back over that type of history. The reality is here now. The Deh Cho have taken the position that they want to pursue. If the Minister is very optimistic, what he said here today clears a lot of these misunderstandings up. If he was able to articulate those words to the Deh Cho leadership directly and maybe to the Treaty 8, perhaps they might be more open for discussion in the future. What I am hearing is good. I just wanted to say that this ministry has to work closer with these two groups because they have taken specific directions on how they want to approach self-government, land claims and it needs a lot of discussion. It is going to be hard to go in there and tell them they have taken the wrong approach. The people the Minister has working in this department has to be able to communicate very well with the leaders of the Deh Cho. That is lacking right now. I don't really know why his department was kicked out of the room when they were talking about self-government, perhaps

they don't trust the people who are there. If that is the case, they are going to have to work on building up that trust somehow.

As for Treaty 8 First Nations not wanting to meet with the Minister, why is that? There have to be reasons for the type of positions that these different aboriginal groups have taken. They don't just do it because they feel like it. There have to be reasons. The way to overcome that is more open dialogue between this government department and the Deh Cho and Treaty 8 First Nations. Those are general comments on this one, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 939

The Chair John Ningark

Thank you. Mr. Minister, you want to respond?

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 939

Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. When the Deh Cho and the other chiefs of the Dene Nation met prior to the constitutional conference, I was invited to go down and speak with them, so I had -- without any notes or a prepared statement -- gone down and given them my expectations of the conference and how I thought it should be focused. In the resulting comments, perhaps I was too negative and hard on the Treaty 8 and Deh Cho position, as I understood it, and simply called for some changes. I didn't gain any fans from that particular leadership group.

As Members know, the constitutional conference itself mended a tremendous number of fences, and the goodwill that resulted is still enjoyed by people now. It was a very positive conference, it showed the extent to which ordinary people are willing to go to embrace the massive degree of change that aboriginal groups are calling for. The dynamics of these negotiations are difficult to explain, and I can't explain the animosity or the goodwill that results.

For instance, when the Gwich'in started negotiations, the Gwich'in decided to become very tight knit and to exclude all outside people. I was the Minister at the time; we were very supportive of their negotiations. We worked very hard with the federal government with them to expedite their negotiations. We, too, we received a tremendous amount of negative feelings and animosity from the Gwich'in in the course of the negotiations.

There was no appreciation for the fact that some of us involved, particularly Bob Overvold and myself, were largely responsible for at least 75 per cent of the content of the Gwich'in claim, because it came from Dene/Metis comprehensive claim. There was no appreciation for the ownership and the work that we put into it. There was very little fanfare given to some of the issues that we advanced on behalf of the Gwich'in. The dynamics were such that the Gwich'in were under the impression that they were doing all this work on their own, and they were going to do it and they didn't want anyone coming to their aid. At least, politically, that seemed to be the perception. So, we did our work and didn't expect any applause or praise and we weren't disappointed, we didn't get very much of it.

The animosity that digs in any time that we sit down for negotiations. It was in the Sahtu negotiations, not to any great degree, but it was there. Presently, with the Dogrib, there is a lot of apprehension and animosity on the part of some leaders, about this government's position. Or apprehension as a result of our lack of clear position on self-government. It ties into many other issues.

So, it is difficult to say or explain how it all works, but I do know that the dynamics, at the best of times, are incredibly complex. It is no surprise, given that the issues that we deal with are forever. Once you give up some land, once you decide not to define certain rights, once you decide certain rights are not worth dying for and you are willing to extinguish them, it is forever.

So the stress from the magnitude of what you are doing is tremendous and there is some aberration, perhaps, in some of our behaviour. Once it is done, relations and...(inaudible)...our relationship with the Gwich'in right now is as if those days of perceived battle and differences never happened. Same with the Sahtu, and I expect it will be the same with all groups as we resolve these issues of self-government and comprehensive claims. Thank you.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 939

The Chair John Ningark

Thank you. I have Mr. Lewis.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

April 10th, 1995

Page 939

Brian Lewis Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The comments that I have to make begin with the fact that at the very beginning of our committee discussion this afternoon, several Members of the Standing Committee on Finance wanted to make comments, and I wasn't sure whether they were personal comments or whether they were comments that came from the committee.

One of the advantages of being on SCOF, of course -- and I was there for four years and certainly appreciated a deep insight into all kinds of things in government -- is you are exposed to so much of the detail of the ongoing operations of the government. So I am not quite sure whether I am hearing the full recommendation of the committee or whether I am hearing individual personal opinions or subjective ideas, and so on, about the ways things should go when Members speak in committee of the whole.

However, I did hear some things, and I certainly respect all our committees and the recommendations that they make. But just a few observations; I was in Ottawa when the referendum took place in 1981, and I ate a lot of left-over food and other things, at various celebrations around the city which weren't held, simply because the referendum lost. There were all kinds of events planned for the night, I remember going to one with an old friend of mine who was the only person we had in Ottawa at that time. He went to everything; everything you wanted him to do, he showed up, went there, briefed people back home as to what should happen. So I have a bit of a bias about all the kinds of things that should be going on in Ottawa. In the nearly 30 years that I have been involved in government, in one shape or form, I've been trying to get as much stuff out of Ottawa, for the north, as we could; trying to get as many things done back home as we could.

And we have seen various developments in the south that have replaced things that one time we depended upon the government to look after. They have been referred to this afternoon; the Circumpolar Commission, the Inuit Tapirisat that was evolved, and all kinds of other groups in Ottawa that have a watching...(inaudible)...if you like, on many of the things that go on in Ottawa.

Anything that we do there has to be focused on the issues of the day. We have done that in the past, on the Meech and Charlottetown accords; we've made sure that we had good constitutional people, because we could be very, very deeply affected if some of the proposals that were being thrown around at that time went into effect.

So I do have concerns about -- unless you have far more information than the rest of us do -- what we should be doing, because there are huge gaps there, or because there are huge problems that are not being addressed. Maybe SCOF has information that we don't have about why we should be doing something. I would have to be convinced that there is a tremendous workload that suddenly evolved that wasn't there before. I thought the busy time for us was when we were doing Meech Lake and Charlottetown. I remember it because it was very active. Lots of people were going back and forth.

What I want to know now is what has suddenly caused the need to have a new dynamic? I'm hearing a bit about the Quebec referendum and that was going to cause the dynamic to change; that we would really have to get involved and do all kinds of things. I have never heard that before. I didn't know the Quebec issue was going to be a huge thing that would have the kind of impact that we saw potentially arising out of the national concern for the Constitution. I recognize that it's an important event, but I can't see how this is a huge thing in the way it is being played up to be.

Neither can I see a lot of things, as well. You can build an argument for doing almost anything. If it is a little flat fish called a turbot which is suddenly a big issue we have to deal with, well okay, let's hear all the arguments about what we can do about the little fish. Maybe we can adopt it as our territorial fish, we can make it our symbol or maybe we could ask Newfoundland to adopt it temporarily as a symbol so it could be a symbol that will gather everyone around for a fight.

I'm not downplaying the importance of economics, I'm not downplaying the importance of the Quebec question. What I'm asking is, really, how are we going to build up a case for building up Ottawa when for the last 30-odd years, we've been trying to get as much done here as we can. Every time we see something, we say this makes sense and we'll do it now, have a go at it. That's just one comment that came to mind when I heard about this big chase for building up Ottawa. We really have to do something there.

I'm not against doing anything that makes sense. If it makes sense, you can see it's a priority, it matters, if you get value for money and so on, I have no problem. But I haven't heard the big argument why this is suddenly a big, huge earth-shattering thing where suddenly we are forced and pressed to do something.

It struck me very soon that our government is going to be very much criticized if it did more than simply play its part. To his credit, Mr. Kakfwi recognized that early on too. It is not our government that should decide, it is the people of the west who would decide the way we would go. We would play our appropriate role, but to criticize someone for not showing leadership when you're told that's not something people want you to lead, it seems to me to make sense that you don't do it. If that's something people don't want you to do, then you should say, okay, we'll play our role, like everybody has asked us to do.

I hear the same comments also about the kind of involvement this government should have in the whole issue of land claims and so on. People have told us to stay away from it. How can you show leadership when you're told that this isn't a role that people would like you to play, that this is what they want to see done. If you go and show leadership, say this is what I think, you get dumped on because that's not what people think you should be saying. They don't agree with you.

I've heard this statement before from Mr. Kakfwi about the way he sees things. He's made it quite clear that this is a vision that he feels will sell, could be funded, and is "doable", if you like. Then people make statements and say no, you're showing leadership in the wrong way, that's not what we mean by leadership. Leadership means doing just exactly what people tell you to do. He's demonstrated that he can do both. He can do what he's told, to just stay out unless he feels what is right is to show some leadership in the overall direction we should go as a western territory.

That's the end of my statement, Mr. Chairman, and thank you very much for recognizing me.