MLAs pass quicky unity resolution

They came, they voted, they went. NWT MLAs met briefly in Yellowknife Dec. 2 to pass a resolution on national unity.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT – Northerners want stronger references made to aboriginal people during national Canadian unity debates.

That’s a message heard from many NWT residents who responded to a national unity questionnaire distributed by the NWT legislative assembly last month. They felt there must be references to aboriginal peoples that reflect both the historic and current realities of their status in Canada.

Territorial MLAs met Tuesday in a special sitting of the legislative assembly to discuss national unity. During that sitting, MLAs passed a resolution outlining their position.

“It is important that our resolution reflect the concerns of northerners and, in particular, aboriginal peoples,” said Premier Don Morin.

“Other jurisdictions in Canada are looking to the Northwest Territories for leadership on aboriginal participation and how that can best be included in an agreement to foster national unity.”

MLAs have been asking their constituents for weeks to comment on the Calgary Declaration, a framework of seven points developed to focus discussions during the unity debate.

All of Canada’s premiers – except Quebec’s – endorsed the document Sept. 14 in Calgary.

Territories a “dynamic and vital” region

In their resolution, MLAs agree that all Canadian governments have the responsibility to preserve and promote a united federation. The resolution also states that the peoples, lands and institutions of Canada’s northern territories comprise a “dynamic and vital” region of Canada.

The resolution further states that territorial governments must have meaningful participation in the unity debates.

MLAs also expect the NWT to continue to be involved in all national unity meetings and to be given a fair and equal opportunity to achieve the status as a full partner within the federation.

“This is a welcome change from the past when the territories were excluded from important national unity and constitutional reform initiatives by Ottawa and the provinces,” states a report tabled by a special assembly committee on national unity Tuesday.

That report details the results of both the committee’s and MLAs’ attempts to have northerners comment on the declaration. It states most people generally support the seven points of the declaration. Some aboriginal leaders, though, felt the consultation process was rushed.

Only 40 questionnaires returned

The committee members admitted, too, that they

didn’t conduct an extensive campaign and only 40 people returned questionnaires.

Committee members, in their report, offered three recommendations to the assembly. They recommend that the resolution passed in the assembly be debated by the members.

They also state that the resolution serve as direction for the government in future deliberations on national unity. Finally, they recommend that their mandate be extended to monitor the national debate and report back to the assembly.

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Canadian premiers are scheduled to meet December 11-12 to consider reforms to national social policies and programs.

It’s expected that informal discussions surrounding the progress on consultations of the Calgary Declaration will also happen then.

That committee, however, will continue to follow the unity debate and report back to the assembly in the future.

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