Colville Lake is now looking to 2024 for self-government after its target deadline from last year was missed.
“Our plan for 2021 was to conclude the first part of our self-government,” said David Codzi, chairman of the Ayoni Keh Land Corporation. “We had to push it back to 2024 now.”
As to why the talks have taken longer than expected, Codzi explained that one of the reasons is that the territorial government has not implemented the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
The Government of Canada has adopted UNDRIP into federal law in June 2021.
The 19th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories announced early in its term that the implementation of UNDRIP was a priority.
The territorial government must reveal a implementation plan by summer 2022.
Self-government negotiations are being conducted between representatives of Colville Lake, the territorial government and the federal government, which Codzi said have been more accommodating than the territorial government.
“They’re more open to suggestions,” Codzi said of the feds.
The federal government did not agree to an interview. A spokesperson wrote in an email that the discussions were confidential.
“The Government of Canada is committed to supporting Indigenous peoples in their work to rebuild and reconstitute their nations, to advance self-determination and, for First Nations, to facilitate the transition away from Indian Act toward self-government,” wrote Matthew Gutsch, a representative with Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.
Codzi said he thinks the process would be faster if the territorial government would step aside and allow Colville Lake to negotiate directly with the federal government.
“We’re all on our feet and talking and not going anywhere,” he said.
But the Government of the Northwest Territories is one of the signatories to the land claims agreement.
The Government of the Northwest Territories did not accept an interview with CBC News or respond to email questions by the deadline.
But in an earlier email statement on Jan. 11, Todd Sasaki, spokesman for the Department of Executive and Indigenous Affairs, said the territorial government was negotiating “to clarify how the Sahtu Dene and Métis of Colville Lake will implement exercise their ancestral right to self-government.”
“Want to move forward”
Joseph Kochon, the community’s chief administrative officer, said the last round of negotiations, which took place in mid-January, went well.
He said the territorial government has a new chief negotiator, who took over a few months ago, but who had previously worked on the negotiations in another capacity.
Colville Lake chief Wilbert Kochon said the relationship with the new negotiator has been positive so far.
“She’s ready to learn and she’s ready to move on,” he said. “The first time we met her was pretty good.”
As for Codzi, he said Colville Lake is more than ready for self-government because the band office already provides most services to the remote community of about 150 people.
Codzi said the community will one day achieve self-government, it’s just a matter of how long it will take.
“The faster we do these things, we’re not spending all the money talking about something that we know we’re going to achieve,” he said.