This is page numbers 91 - 116 of the Hansard for the 13th 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 aboriginal.

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Tabled Document 18-13(7): Letter From South Slave Metis Tribal Council Regarding Appeal From Decisions On Electoral Boundaries
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

Page 102

Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to table a letter from the South Slave Metis Tribal Council to the Honourable Jim Antoine, Premier. It is signed by Mr. Paul Harrington, President of the South Slave Tribal Council dated March 24, 1999.

Tabled Document 18-13(7): Letter From South Slave Metis Tribal Council Regarding Appeal From Decisions On Electoral Boundaries
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

Page 102

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Tabling of documents. Mr. Erasmus.

Tabled Document 19-13(7): Paper By Roy Erasmus Entitled Section 25 And 35, Collective Rights Versus Individual Rights
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

Page 102

Roy Erasmus Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to table a document entitled, Section 25 and 35, Collective Rights versus Individual Rights by Roy Erasmus.

Tabled Document 19-13(7): Paper By Roy Erasmus Entitled Section 25 And 35, Collective Rights Versus Individual Rights
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

Page 102

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Tabling of documents. Mr. Erasmus.

Tabled Document 20-13(7): Oath Of Office Of MLA Roy Erasmus
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

Page 102

Roy Erasmus Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to table this document entitled the Oath of Office by Roy Erasmus. Thank you.

Tabled Document 20-13(7): Oath Of Office Of MLA Roy Erasmus
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

Page 102

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Tabling of documents. Mr. Morin.

Tabled Document 21-13(7): Opening Prayer Of The Legislative Assembly Of The Northwest Territories
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

Page 102

Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to table a document, it is a document that every Member is familiar with in this House. It is the prayer that the Members of this House use prior to the start of the business of the day. Oh, God, may your spirit and guidance be in us as we work for the benefit of all our people, all our people, for peace and justice in our land and for the constant recognition of the dignity and aspirations of those whom we serve. Amen. Thank you.

Tabled Document 21-13(7): Opening Prayer Of The Legislative Assembly Of The Northwest Territories
Item 13: Tabling Of Documents

Page 102

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Just to remind the Members if you table a document to table it under the heading. That would be sufficient. Tabling of documents. Item 14, notices of motion. Mr. Henry.

Motion: 6-13(7): Amendments To The Rules Of The Legislative Assembly
Item 14: Notices Of Motion

Page 103

Seamus Henry Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I give notice that on Friday March 26, 1999, I will move the following motion.

Now therefore I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Thebacha, that the rules of the Legislative Assembly be amended by:

Striking out that portion of Rule 12(9) that follows, "When in the Assembly, every Member shall be attired..." and substituting "... in traditional aboriginal clothing or in a manner that does not offend the dignity of the Assembly.";

And Further that Rules 85 and 85.1 be rescinded and the following adopted:

85(1) At its first sitting after a general election, the Assembly shall appoint a Striking Committee of three Members to report and recommend, with all convenient speed, Members to comprise the following standing committees of the Assembly;

On Government Operations

On Resource Management and Infrastructure

On Rules and Procedures

On Social Programs

and any other standing and special committees as directed by the Assembly.

(2) The Standing Committee on Government Operations shall:

a) Review issues which have government wide implications;

b) Consider items and issues referred from other committees and the House;

c) Conduct the overview of the budget and the fiscal framework;

d) Consider the budgets and financial management of boards and agencies that are outside the responsibility of any standing committee, including the Office of the Legislative Assembly;

e) Examine the reports on the annual financial statements and public accounts of the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Report of the Auditor General;

f) Allocate to any other standing committee its examination of any estimates and any review of departmental performance;

g) Examine and consider the overall issues that affect the operation of the Government of the Northwest Territories relating to division.

(3) The Standing Committee on Resource Management and Infrastructure shall consider the following matters with respect to the Departments of Executive, Aboriginal Affairs, Financial Management Board Secretariat, Finance, Public Works and Services, Municipal and Community Affairs, Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development and Transportation:

a) Review legislation and policy proposals, multi-year business plans and budgets, bills, boards and agencies, and public accounts;

b) Review departmental performance; and,

c) Consider any other matter referred by the House.

(4) The Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures shall inquire into such matters as may be referred to it by the Legislative Assembly, the Speaker, or the Management and Services Board.

(5) The Standing Committee on Social Programs shall consider the following matters with respect to the Departments of Health and Social Services, Education, Culture and Employment, Justice, and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation:

a) Review legislative and policy proposals, multi-year business plans and budgets, bills, boards and agencies, and public accounts;

b) Review departmental performance; and,

c) Consider any other matter referred by the House.

And furthermore, that Rule 87(1) be amended by adding "... with the exception of the Standing Committee on Government Operations, which shall consist of seven Members" after "... not more than five Members..."

And furthermore that Rule 87(2) be amended by adding "... with the exception of the Standing Committee on Government Operations..." after "Each Standing Committee...";

And furthermore that Rule 90(3) be rescinded and the following adopted:

90(3) The quorum of a committee shall be a simple majority of committee Members.

And furthermore, that these amendments shall come into effect and be deemed to be Rules of the Legislative Assembly on April 1, 1999.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion: 6-13(7): Amendments To The Rules Of The Legislative Assembly
Item 14: Notices Of Motion

Page 103

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Notices of motion. Item 15, notices of motion for first reading of bills. Item 16, motions. Motion 5-

13(7), Mr. Morin.

Motion: 5-13(7): Appeal Of Supreme Court Decision On Electoral Boundaries
Item 16: Motions

Page 104

Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

WHEREAS the Supreme Court of the NWT ruled on March 5, 1999, that the boundaries of three constituencies located in the western Arctic are unconstitutional;

AND WHEREAS there are compelling reasons for the Government of the NWT, as the respondent in this case, to appeal this decision, including:

-Concern for the constitutional future of the Western Territory and its place in the Canadian Federation;

-Safeguarding of the Western Territory in the context of treaty, land resources and governance negotiations and discussions;

-The fiduciary duty of the Government of the NWT as an agent of the Crown towards aboriginal peoples and aboriginal governments in the Northwest Territories;

-The duty of the Government of the Northwest Territories to ensure respect for the spirit and intent of Crown aboriginal treaties and Crown undertakings under those treaties;

-Important principles of constitutional interpretation, including the matter of the appropriate balance between individual rights as reflected in section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and collective rights as reflected in section 25 of the Charter and section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982;

-The appropriate role of the courts in ensuring that nothing be allowed to transpire that would frustrate the ability of the Crown to honour its commitments towards aboriginal people, to negotiation in good faith with aboriginal governments and to honour its treaty commitments.

AND WHEREAS it is imperative that issues relating to electoral boundaries be determined within the political sphere and not be decided by the courts;

AND WHEREAS the western NWT Aboriginal Summit, a forum for aboriginal governments in the new Western Territory, a partner with the Western Caucus of MLAs in developing constitutional proposals for the west, has urged the Western Caucus and the Premier to support the Government of the Northwest Territories appealing this decision;

AND WHEREAS it is imperative that a political decision on this issue be reached in consultation with, and with the concurrence of, the aboriginal governments of the western NWT;

NOW THEREFORE I MOVE, seconded by the honourable Member for Mackenzie Delta, that the Legislative Assembly recommends to the Executive Council that they immediately file an appeal of the March 5, 1999, decision of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories in the matter of Friends of Democracy et al, vs. the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories et al, and take all steps necessary to ensure that the decision of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories is stayed pending the hearing of an appeal. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Motion: 5-13(7): Appeal Of Supreme Court Decision On Electoral Boundaries
Item 16: Motions

Page 104

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. The motion is in order. To the motion. Mr. Morin.

Motion: 5-13(7): Appeal Of Supreme Court Decision On Electoral Boundaries
Item 16: Motions

Page 104

Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. How did we get here today, Mr. Speaker? How did we end up in what some are calling a constitutional crisis. In the last couple of days, Mr. Speaker, I have had an opportunity to visit all the Chiefs in the Western Arctic at the Yellowknife Ski Club. The Yellowknife Ski Club brought back memories, sometimes even nightmares, because I know what happened there when the Western Caucus met. We had an agreement with aboriginal governments of the western Arctic, as western Members of this Legislative Assembly. We had an agreement that we would move ahead on April 1, 1999, to division of the Northwest Territories as it exists today.

We had agreement with the Nunavut people that they would go their way and govern themselves, which is rightfully so. We had an agreement with all the aboriginal governments in the west that we, as elected people and elected government, would sit down and come to an agreement of how a new western government would be formed. We had an agreement that we would stay with 14 Members in the Legislative Assembly. We would stay because we recognized it as a transitional government. We would be a transitional government till we formed a new government in the western Arctic that represents all people. It would take into consideration the diversity of the north, the communication problems we have in the north, the aboriginal governments' issues in the north and for sure it took into consideration the inherent right of aboriginal people to govern themselves.

We had those agreements in place. I remember shaking hands on those. I remember saying to people, no problem, we are going to work it out. We are going to sit down as leaders in the western Arctic to work it out. Yes, we have been working for 20 some years on the same issue, governance, governance in the west. I, for one, Mr. Speaker, am never going to give up on aboriginal governments and the people in the western Arctic to be able to come to consensus and the ability to agree on a new government structure for the west. I believe we can do that.

However, at the Ski Club in Yellowknife last spring, the decision was made to move ahead on a boundaries commission because somebody produced a document, somebody produced a document that said that we would be challenged in the courts if we went to an election with the 14 Members that we had. Everybody ran away and decided to form a boundaries commission. Did the aboriginal government ask for a boundaries commission? Did the Aboriginal Summit ask for a boundaries commission? No. They did not want a boundaries commission. They wanted to continue the dialogue to work out a new western government that would truly reflect all the people from Fitzgerald all the way up to Holman, Tuktoyaktuk, all the people in the western Arctic would be recognized under a new constitution, and no one's rights would be infringed on. So then we went on to establish a boundaries commission. There was no heart in establishing a boundaries commission, there was no want by the Northwest Territories residents to even speak to a boundaries commission.

They had a hard time to even get people out to talk to them when they came to our riding, because it was not of an interest to them. What was of an interest was how we were going to develop a new government. You cannot do it by doing a one-of approach, you have to do it by including the big picture; by including self-government, by including the inherent right of aboriginal people to govern themselves, as well as the people's rights in the major centres of having representation. So we had our boundaries commission. The boundaries commission came back to the Legislative Assembly and they recommended two existing seats to our capital city, Yellowknife. The majority of the Members in this Legislative Assembly rejected that idea. The majority of Members voted against the boundaries commission.

Then what happened? I think it was five or six, I am not sure of the number, there were individuals in Yellowknife. They formed a group, they are now called, Friends of Democracy. They challenged this government, they challenged us in court, and the judge ruled in their favour. The judge came out, I believe it was on March 5, 1999, and said three seats in this House were unconstitutional.

Number one, the judge erred in his decision, but before I say that, I must say that I have the utmost respect for Justice de Weerdt, he is a very honourable person. He is an elder and a very honest man. That does not mean I, as an individual, an elected person, cannot disagree with his ruling. It is as simple as that. I have the right to disagree with anything, and I am doing that today. I believe that we should appeal this case because the judge erred in his ruling. When the judge came down on March 5, 1999, and made his ruling, he gave us 26 days, 26 days to settle an issue that has been negotiated for 20 years. We had 26 days of Legislature. Why did they not just cock the gun and put it to our head, that is the pressure they put on this Legislature. Twenty-six days.

Not only did they overstep their judiciary responsibility. There are three levels of government. There are three different functions that government carries out. We have the political function; that is this House, this is the Legislative Assembly. We are elected by the people to make laws, to make sure we treat people fairly, and move ahead. That is our job; making laws, government job, making policy. Then you have the administration of it, that is the government. They administer the government, they run the day-to-day affairs of the government. Then you have the justice system. They are supposed to deal with injustice, but I believe that the courts in this country, I believe that the judges in this country that are non-elected, are overstepping their boundaries. Not only overstepping their boundaries, but giving us unrealistic time frames. Twenty-six days, Mr. Speaker, we have to rectify three ridings that are unconstitutional.

The other day, Mr. Speaker, in this Assembly, I also tabled a document from a court case in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories by Chief Francois Paulette, and the court case was heard by Mr. Justice W.G. Morrow. This court case was held on April 3, 1973. The other one we are talking about today; March 5, 1999. Some people are saying there is an injustice. This Morrow case on land claims, on inherent right of aboriginal people in the western Arctic, April 3, 1973, when this man came out with his judgment, this judge, and in his conclusions, Mr. Speaker:

To sum up my conclusions under the reference:

(1) I am satisfied that those who signed the caveat are present-day descendants of those distinct Indian groups who, organized in societies and using the land as their forefathers had done for centuries, have since time immemorial used the land embraced by that caveat as theirs.

(2) I am satisfied that those same indigenous people as mentioned in (1) above are prima facie owners of the land covered by the caveat -- that they have what is known as aboriginal rights.

(3) That there exists a clear constitutional obligation on the part of the Canadian government to protect the legal rights of the indigenous peoples in the area covered by the caveat.

(4) That notwithstanding the language of the two treaties there is significant doubt on the facts that aboriginal title was extinguished that such claim for title should be permitted to be put forward by the caveators.

(5) That the above purported claim for aboriginal rights constitutes an interest in land which can be protected by caveat under the Land Titles Act.

This is a court decision from 1973. What has happened with this, if you compare the two, Mr. Speaker. There are moves now, immediately, to fix this injustice, but how about this injustice from the Morrow case? Where are the moves by this government to fix this injustice? The two go hand in hand. This one has been outstanding for 26 years. It is not addressed yet, it has not been addressed today. People I represent, the South Slave Metis, Treaty 8 Tribal Council, are still negotiating land claims today. They are still negotiating self-government today, but they are willing, they are very willing, to sit down and work with all people in the Northwest Territories to ensure that we as a people create a government that represents all the people and treats all the people fairly.

Also, in Justice de Weerdt's decision, he gives us 26 days to remedy the situation, but if you go to another document I tabled the other day in this Legislative Assembly, MacKinnon and Government of Prince Edward Island versus Charlottetown as the respondent, the judge goes on to say in here:

To establish a deadline beyond which the legislation will not be "in place" would be to require that the majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly agree on a course of action. I consider it quite beyond the inherent power of the court to compel agreement. In any case, to do so would be to effectively legislate. That must also be beyond the remedial powers that are reposed in the court.

So I conclude that the establishment of a deadline would be in direct violation of the rights and obligations of the members of the Legislative Assembly, would threaten the violation of the right of the people of British Columbia to the existence of Legislative Assembly, and would threaten the violation of the right of citizens of Canada to vote for members of a Legislative Assembly, to say nothing of eradicating the right to vote, whether equal or not.

I think it must be left to the legislature to do what is right in its own time.

That is from another court case in this country. Mr. Speaker, we have tabled many documents in this Legislative Assembly. Some of them are quite interesting. Some of them are quite ridiculous. The other day I tabled one to the Territorial Minister of Justice from Friends of Democracy; it is from their lawyer, Brian J. Wallace:

Unless you can satisfy me that passage of Bill 15 before April 1st is a practical impossibility as we were previously advised, then I am instructed to withdraw our agreement to an extension of time for the suspension of Mr. Justice de Weerdt's decision.

Friends of Democracy: you have until April 1st, they are saying to us, to rectify this decision, to rectify this great injustice that is done to the City of Yellowknife. Mr. Speaker, I have been a Member of this Legislative Assembly, this is the 12th year that I have come here. I have represented the smallest riding in the western Arctic for the past 12 years. I have worked in this government in many different capacities. I think I do understand a bit about constitutional development. I do understand a bit about political development.

I have said this story many times, but I will repeat it one more time. I can remember when I was in Fort Resolution, living in Fort Resolution, the clerk at the sawmill said to me, mad because we as aboriginal people wanted to take over our community council, we wanted to represent ourselves on our community council, and he is mad because he is a clerk, a transient in my community. That is who the council was run by, the Hudson Bay managers, the RCMP, the nurses, all transient, in and out every couple of years, and he said to me, and they used to call us all Indians in those days,"You Indians will never be able to run this town. You Indians are not capable of picking up the garbage, sewer or delivering the water." Well, he is no longer there. Our people are picking up the garbage, we are picking up the sewer, we are delivering the water, we are maintaining our own buildings, we are running our own governments at the community level. We are capable, able and willing to do that and it is better for the people that we represent.

Mr. Antoine today, the Premier of the Northwest Territories, in his Minister's statement, western boundary issue, fourth paragraph, Mr. Speaker:

Given the unique opportunities that we have, it is unfortunate that we have become sidetracked in the divisive debate over electoral boundaries. This debate has the potential of setting back everything we have been trying to build for the last 30 years, derailing the hard work of trying to frame joint priorities and to assert our independence from DIAND's rule. Not one northern group can win at this debate, but we can all lose.

Well, Mr. Antoine, Mr. Premier, I do agree with you 100 percent. There is no win for anyone in the Northwest Territories if we increase this Legislature to five more seats at this time. Mr. Speaker, he goes on to say:

We as elected representatives have a responsibility to find a solution to this very difficult divisive issue. I appeal to you, my honourable colleagues, and to all parties in this debate to reach out for a solution that will bring us together.

That I support 100 percent. We should be reaching out for solutions, increasing the Members in this Legislative Assembly, Mr. Speaker, will not be a solution. We are going to send a clear message to our aboriginal partners, the aboriginal governments that we have our hand out to them, to work in partnership, to work on an equal basis as long as we can do this behind their back. That is what it boils down to, Mr. Speaker. When you talk to aboriginal governments, or aboriginal people you should do it straight up. Everybody understands what increasing the number of seats in Yellowknife will mean. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out. You have to look in this House and count the numbers.

We are committed and I am committed, Mr. Speaker, to build a new constitution for the western Arctic. I am totally committed to working with the people in Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik and all of our communities on building a government for the western Arctic that will truly represent all of our people, but you do not do that by jamming down their throats an additional five seats. We have every right to appeal. If anybody goes to court in this land and you do not agree with the decision the judge makes, you have a right to appeal. You can line up 20 lawyers and every lawyer will give you a different view on the law. Guaranteed. Maybe we have not looked hard enough or long enough to find the right lawyers to represent this government. I believe, Mr. Speaker, we have good compelling reasons to appeal this decision of Justice de Weerdt.

That is one thing it will do, it will give us time to come to a political solution. I for one, do not want to waste my money in court. I do not want to spend the public purse in court, but was it us who put us there? No it was not. It was Friends of Democracy that put us there. It was Friends of Democracy that initiated this issue. We were willing to come to a political solution. We were willing to sit down with the aboriginal governments and create a government in the new Western Territory that would work for all. That is what we should be committed to. That is what we should be going out and doing, but to side track it, shortcut it and increase the Members in the Legislative Assembly, we would be doing a disaster.

This morning I heard at the meeting of all of the chiefs, the Grand Chief, Mr. Bill Erasmus, and the common theme trust. Trust, trust, trust or a lack of trust. If you want trust you will appeal this case. If you want to build a new government for the western Arctic, a government that truly represents all the people. You will vote in favour of this motion. You will, if you want to keep the name ultimately of Northwest Territories, vote against the motion.

Motion: 5-13(7): Appeal Of Supreme Court Decision On Electoral Boundaries
Item 16: Motions

Page 107

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Mr. Morin, your time is up. Thank you. To the motion. Mr. Krutko.

Motion: 5-13(7): Appeal Of Supreme Court Decision On Electoral Boundaries
Item 16: Motions

Page 107

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As the seconder of this motion I feel that in time when we look at how many years it has taken us to get to where we are, I think people have to realize just going back four and a half years, before most of the Members ended up in this House, was the first time that all 34 communities in the western Northwest Territories had the opportunity to sit down in one room and talk about the constitution for the new Western Territory. I am talking about the first constitutional conference that was held here in Yellowknife, which a lot of Members here took part in. I think that out of that conference was the first time we had the opportunity to look at some events that happened in the new Western Territory regarding the Iqaluit agreement, the Bourque Commission report and through the discussions between the aboriginal communities, people from non-aboriginal communities and all people in general, we were able to have an opportunity to put the issues on the table and understand where each of us was coming from. Through that dialogue and through those discussions people were able to get a better understanding of where the aboriginal communities were coming from, and the people in the larger centres where their aspirations were also.

As part of that constitutional conference, there were 22 recommendations which came out of that conference that clearly identified how the groups were going to work together. This was only four and a half years ago. I think people do not realize that was the first opportunity for all the people in the Western Territory to talk about this issue. Since then, we have not had another constitutional conference, we are in the process of considering, discussing the possibility of having another conference and talk about where we are today with the new political aspirations that are happening in the west such as the self-government arrangements, consideration of the Northern Accord, the Political Accord, the aspirations of people in this territory.

I think because of the lack of time and the opportunity that we did not give the residents of the new Western Territories, it is where we find ourselves today. I think it is important as residents of the new Western Territory, that we do take the time. We need that time to sit down and discuss exactly where all 34 communities in the Western Territory see this government going after division. People say we had no interest in the constitutional process, it is dead, it will never come back again, but I think as members on the Constitutional Steering Committee, and people in the Western Territory we did not feel that the time was appropriate. We needed to seriously take the time regardless if it happened after April 1, 1999, or the year 2005, we will have that opportunity to discuss it and take our time and come to an arrangement that we can all live with.

Mr. Speaker, we did not allow ourselves to take that next step. I think it is important as Members of this House we allow ourselves that time. I also feel that 26 days is not appropriate for anyone, government or an individual Canadian citizen, to develop a case of an appeal of such magnitude in that short time frame. I strongly recommend to my colleagues to support this initiative to ensure that as a government we are able to sit down and have dialogue and resolve this issue by discussion. Not by force, not by decision by a court. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.