GUEST COMMENT: A plea for change from repeating the same old sad story – John B. Zoe

Seasoned negotiator John B. Zoe challenges new MLAs

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Dr. John B. Zoe, former chief land claims negotiator for the former Treaty 11 Council, writes in this guest column that greater northern co-operation is required to move forward as a territory. Here, he stands in front of a hand drawn blueprint tracing the historical interaction and development of Indigenous and European governance, from first contact to present day. Bruce Valpy/NNSL photo

In the North, our story is always the same: Every four years we say ‘Ottawa has been making all the big decisions for us for too long, it’s time we decide for ourselves the direction we take as Northerners.’

Guess what, the stuff – the legislative powers, the regulatory levers, even the money – was devolved just a while ago. We have it, at least we have the ‘we decide’ part and we haven’t seriously tested its strength yet.

Now that we have gotten the power to the North, we should be able to move forward. But we are all acting like Ottawa, doing to ourselves what we complained about being done to us with the same method.

We could work together and develop relationships, sharing decision making power in areas that are common. Some service partnerships could be internal, we do have the same goals.
Claims can be settled; even steel expands and retracts in the climate we all live in.

Discussions about effective representation and implementation, laying the foundation of a new made-in-the-North governance model will be a good start. The rest will follow. Even a trickle will do at the beginning, a welcome relief to our parched political landscape, a society nurtured locally for the first time.

How do we Northerners with our collective jurisdictions come up with a structure that represents all that is in common?

The feds gave the North the power, do what you will with it. But it should be truly Northern, just as we have all been talking for some time now.

By doing nothing, if we can’t agree on a foundation, we will once again hand off to yet another future generation the inability to make a decision, meaning same ole.

My guess is that unless there is real change, it will all again be about placing priority on the same sum of Ottawa bucks, sending our leaders packing, without a mandate, to Ottawa on a ‘give us please’ spree of incentives to build ourselves up once again into the same old story.

Dr. John B. Zoe was the chief land claims negotiator for the former Treaty 11 Council of the NWT from 1994 until its conclusion with the establishment of the Tłıicho Government in 2005 and is John is now a senior adviser to the Tłıcho Government.

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