NWT Premier Floyd Roland has signed the historic, yet controversial, devolution agreement-in-principle, despite the backlash from the territory’s Aboriginal leaders.
The ceremony took place last Wednesday morning, where both Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs John Duncan and Roland signed the document.
Only two Aboriginal groups, the NWT Métis Nation and the Inuvialuit, signed on in agreement.
The document sets out the terms for transferring authority from the federal government to the GNWT, giving the territorial government power over their land, economic development and resources.
But the signing has Northern Aboriginal leaders frustrated, after last minute attempts to meet with Duncan and Roland failed.
Dene First Nation Region Chief Bill Erasmus spoke several days before the signing, saying that the document would not have the support of Aboriginal people in the NWT.
Now that the agreement has been signed, the leaders are threatening that legal action may be taken.
During a news conference prior to the signing ceremony, both Roland and Duncan expressed excitement over the historic step.
“It’s history in the making, in many respects,” said Duncan, “and I am happy to share this way with people in the NWT.”
“This is an important day,” added Roland.
Roland addressed one of the concerns raised by the Aboriginal leaders during the media scrum, by saying that the table is always open for parties to rejoin in discussions later down the road.
“The tent is always open for them to join,” said Roland. “It is absolutely inclusive for those who want to be a part.”
But many Northern Aboriginal leaders do not see it that way.
Many descended upon the legislative assembly in protest, prior to the signing of the AiP.
Erasmus said that the next steps for Aboriginal groups would be to step back, and come up with a game plan. He said that they will be looking at all options, which still includes taking legal action.
“The process that occurred was not one that pleased our people,” he said. “We need to talk that through and decide how to proceed.”