Leaders of the Dene Nation have requested that Governor General David Johnston meet with them in the Northwest Territories over First Nations concerns with the NWT devolution bill.
Chiefs and elders met in Dettah last week for an emergency meeting on Bill C-15, which would not only transfer authority over resources from Canada to the territorial government, but amend the Northern regulatory scheme by eliminating the regional land and water boards in favour of a superboard.
At the meeting, held all of last week, leadership instructed Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus to request the Governor General refuse to sign and give royal assent to the bill before meeting with the Dene Nation.
“Before it goes to the Governor General of Canada for his signature, the Dene leadership wants a meeting in the NWT with the Right Honourable David Johnston,” Erasmus said. “We need a comprehensive assessment, a complete evaluation of the spending, decisions and conduct of the government of the Northwest Territories concerning the Dene.”
Senate passed the bill last week after clause-by-clause deliberation. Previous attempts to remove the changes to the boards structure – the main point of contention for Aboriginal governments in the NWT – by Opposition members in the House of Commons were unsuccessful.
The Dene Nation recently wrote to Queen Elizabeth with its concerns. A response received from Buckingham Palace directed the Dene to get in touch with the Governor General.
Erasmus said the problem stretches to the territorial government’s actions through devolution, which he claims are a power grab.
“The territorial government is proposing to become a province and assuming authority over our people without discussing our current relationship and political reality,” he said. “Both the federal and territorial governments outrightly refused to attend the leadership meeting to explain their proposal concerning Bill C-15.”
Erasmus said the Dene Nation wants written evidence that either government has legal authority over the Dene, who are parties to Treaties 8 and 11.
“The Dene leadership are saying that the conduct over fast-tracking Bill C-15 to royal assent is unfair and unjust,” he said. “This proposed bill is a violation upon our treaties which guides how the country functions and therefore goes against the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982.”