Tlicho leaders say there needs to be clampdown on the abuse of charter flight services shown by some people in their communities.

The comments were made after some people who were flown from outlying communities to Behchoko on Friday for new Grand Chief George Mackenzie's swearing-in ceremony decided to ditch the event.

"This is not the first time that people have done that. Some continue on to Yellowknife for whatever reasons," said Mackenzie, who chosen as Grand Chief for the Tlicho government on Sept. 11.

"It has happened many times so this is something we have to deal with and correct."

The same thing happens too often at Tlicho annual assemblies, said Jackson Lafferty, who represents Tlicho people in the legislative assembly as MLA for Monfwi.

"Maybe next time they won't get on a plane — that's the repercussion they may be faced with." - MLA Jackson Lafferty

A charter plane makes stops in the communities and brings members to Behchoko yet there are empty chairs at the meeting, he said.

"Obviously, we always encourage people to attend [the events they're flown out for]. We'll continue to stress that — it's very important to attend these meetings because we obviously like to share their perspective, their voice," Laffery said.

"We have to carry that forward when we're making decisions."

If people are going to abuse that privilege, perhaps its time to enforce some type of sanction, Lafferty suggested.

"If they do attend, that's great. If not, well, people notice and maybe next time they won't get on a plane — that's the repercussion they may be faced with," he said. "They have to be mindful of that."

The charter plane is usually something like a Dash-7, which carries about 55 people. Because of the limited space, each community's leadership usually decides who will attend a function outside of their individual communities.

George Mackenzie feast

People attend the feast following George Mackenzie's swearing-in ceremony on Sept. 15 in Behchoko. (Jackson Lafferty/Facebook)

"It's a learning curve for all of us," Lafferty said.

"At the same time we have to keep in mind that those people that attended these functions were grateful and also appreciative for the charter going to the communities."

At Mackenzie's swearing-in ceremony, which took place at the Ko Gocho Centre in Behchoko, there was a decent turnout but definitely some absences.

"We notice that — Grand Chief noticed it, I noticed it," Lafferty said.

jackson lafferty.jpeg

MLA Jackson Lafferty says there are people who value the opportunity to fly to another community for events, like a swearing-in ceremony or assembly, but there are some who abuse it. (CBC)

It became more apparent later at other events like the drum dance at the cultural center. Somewhere between the swearing-in and that, a number of people, including elders and even chiefs from various Tlicho communities, weren't there.

"There were some people who got on the plane but weren't present at the meetings. Obviously it was noticeable," said Lafferty.

However, Mackenzie didn't want to talk much about it.

"I won't dwell on the negative activity of my Grand Chief celebration. I would rather deal with the positive side of it," he said, adding he was surrounded with positive comments and congratulations from people.

"I'm please with the crowd that showed up. I'm very pleased with the support I get with Tlicho and non-Tlicho right across the territories into the Yukon, and northern Alberta."

Likewise, Lafferty categorized the event as a "success."

"There was a lot of people there from outlying communities, even from outside the Tlicho communities. There was a lot of people there — a lot of happy people," he said.

"A lot of people were happy that there's a new leadership moving forward."