Masi, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to focus on how we should empower our communities and our people. This is part of the discussion we had on our priorities and mandates of the Northwest Territories. We need to allow communities to build capacities and start making their own decisions.
Mr. Speaker, I represent the largest Indigenous community in the NWT. The population of Behchoko is around 2,500. Over 90 percent are Tlicho citizens. Behchoko is a fast-growing community, with highly educated community members. More than 200 individuals have post-secondary education. These statistics show that Tlicho people have the education and ability to take on positions within the GNWT. We have the ability to assess our own community needs and manage programs based on those needs.
Twenty years ago, Mr. Speaker, I was a community empowerment coordinator in Behchoko for MACA. At that time, all the MACA positions were housed in Behchoko, including the superintendent. This department was working at full capacity, with all positions situated in Behchoko. Twenty years later, there are seven positions serving the North Slave region. North Slave includes all Tlicho communities. Four of these positions, three of the most senior positions, are based out of Yellowknife. Headquarters is making all of our decisions about our communities, from Yellowknife.
How is this decentralization? How is this community empowerment?
Not only this, Mr. Speaker; I have been told that, in the past, the North Slave superintendent rarely came to Behchoko and local staff were required to accommodate him in Yellowknife for meetings. It is my understanding that there is a new superintendent also working in Yellowknife today. Perhaps she will be able to spend more time in the community.
Mr. Speaker, if we are serious about communities taking ownership and being their own decision-making authorities, we have to start empowering them. GNWT positions need to be in a community or regions to serve the needs of our communities. We have to move away from a top-down approach and allow grassroots people to make their own decisions. This will be a true reconciliation. Masi, Mr. Speaker.