Over the years, we’ve seen the signings of a lot of memorandums of understanding.

They have been for a wide variety of issues involving the GNWT, First Nations, industries, communities and others, and most have been quite obvious in their reasons and purposes.

We have never found a memorandum of understanding to be puzzling, until now.

On July 22, the GNWT and the Tu Cho Fishers Co-operative — a branch of the NWT Fishermen’s Federation — confirmed their commitment to revitalizing the fishing industry of Great Slave Lake with a memorandum of understanding.

It was signed at Fisherman’s Wharf by Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Katrina Nokleby and Cameron Beaverbones, the president of the Tu Cho Fishers Co-operative.

We’re simply not sure why that memorandum of understanding is necessary, and we don’t understand the political motivations behind it.

For many years, fishers and the GNWT have expressed a desire to see a revitalization of the commercial fishery on Great Slave Lake.

And it’s not like this is the first time that a revitalization plan has been created and released with public fanfare.

In February 2017, the GNWT and the NWT Fishermen’s Federation jointly released the Strategy for Revitalizing the Great Slave Lake Commercial Fishery.

To be quite honest, we don’t think there’s much difference between the new MOU and the strategy from three years ago. We’re having an extreme feeling of déjà vu.

Just after the recent signing ceremony, we asked Nokleby if there hadn’t been a previous commitment to revitalize the Great Slave Lake fishery.

The minister said there had been a tacit understanding.

“It wasn’t something that was done on paper or formalized,” she said. “And we just wanted to show the Tu Cho that we are committed to working with them on this project and that it’s not going to be us coming and saying this is how everything is going to be.”

We can buy that, to a degree.

And, technically, the MOU is between the GNWT and the Tu Cho Fishers Co-operative, while the earlier strategy was between the GNWT and the NWT Fishermen’s Federation. But that’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

The goals and ideas for revitalizing the commercial fishery have certainly been put to paper before, not to mention discussed ad nauseam at various meetings.

Without trying to be sarcastic, can we now expect an MOU between the territorial government and the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority declaring a commitment to health care? Or perhaps a document signed by the GNWT and the South Slave Divisional Education Council proclaiming a commitment to education?

Of course, there seems little reason to object when people agree about something new or contentious, and when they put such as agreement into writing. That generally seems like a good thing.

However, a memorandum of understanding on revitalizing the Great Slave Lake commercial fishery seems somewhat bizarre at this moment, given that the issue has been discussed for many years and what needs to be done is well known.

We honestly don’t understand why any time and effort was expended to create the document.


Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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