Mr. Speaker, yesterday as Caucus chair, I pleased to table a consensus government convention that clarifies how this Assembly will consider and pass land and resource legislation that has been in partnership with Indigenous governments in the NWT.
Mr. Speaker, before becoming an MLA, I served for 14 years as chief of the Salt River First Nation. I was at a table with Premier McLeod and other northern leaders when the devolution agreement was signed and negotiated. It was a hard-fought negotiation.
I want to be very clear that devolution was never intended to transfer the authority for lands and resources to the Government of the Northwest Territories. I and other Indigenous leaders who negotiated the deal viewed it, and continue to view it, as the proper resumption of control over northern lands and resources by Northerners, all Northerners.
Mr. Speaker, in the last Assembly, the Intergovernmental Council, including the Government of the Northwest Territories, cooperated on the drafting of the Mineral Resources Act. It wasn't easy, and there was a lot of give and take. Once the bill was introduced, however, it was amended by the Assembly with little to no input from Indigenous governments who helped draft it. That was unfortunate, Mr. Speaker. It was a step back for reconciliation when we were badly in need of a giant step forward.
Mr. Speaker, the process convention I tabled yesterday will help ensure that this does not happen again. It recognizes that while this Assembly has the exclusive jurisdiction to make public laws in the NWT, it does not and should not do so in a vacuum. Indigenous governments are not stakeholders in land and resource legislation. They are the primary stewards, owners, and knowledge-keepers of our northern land and resources. Starting with the Forest Act that was introduced this week, Indigenous governments will not be included in all discussions between the Minister and standing committees on land and resource bills and will have an opportunity to state their views directly to the committee. The convention adds additional time to the standing committee review process and ensures that Indigenous governments will have time to consider and express their views directly to the committee on proposed amendments to these bills. IGC representatives will be invited to this Chamber as full witnesses during the Committee of the Whole review of land and resources bills and, importantly, on to the floor along with all 19 of us when the Commissioner gives assent to these bills and brings them into law. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.
---Unanimous consent granted
Mr. Speaker, this protocol is a first of its kind in Canada. For many Canadians, reconciliation is a distant abstract aspiration. However, here in the NWT, and in this Chamber, reconciliation is infused in everything we do. In the NWT, we're on the frontlines of reconciliation and must break a trail for the rest of Canada to follow. This protocol demonstrates that consensus government can adapt to reflect the wonderfully complex political environment in the NWT.
I want to thank and congratulate all my colleagues for taking this bold step forward. This is what leadership looks like, and I am proud to have my signature on this important step toward greater reconciliation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.