N.W.T. aboriginal leaders seek devolution delay

Aboriginal groups meet in Yellowknife to discuss the drafted devolution deal that N.W.T. Premier Floyd Roland plans to sign Wednesday.

Premier to sign deal involving territorial control of Crown resources Wednesday

Aboriginal groups are in Yellowknife hoping to stall the drafted devolution deal that N.W.T. Premier Floyd Roland plans to sign Wednesday.

N.W.T. Premier Floyd Roland, seen in a CBC-TV interview in October, says the details of the agreement between the federal government and the territory can be ironed out later. ((CBC))

"We hope that the minister would seriously consider holding off any signing until all our issues are resolved," Dehcho Grand Chief Sam Gargan said.

Many of the N.W.T.'s aboriginal leaders oppose the agreement, which sets out terms for transferring control over Crown lands and resources from Ottawa to the territory. 

Some believe it is a bad deal financially, while others have argued that the agreement could hurt their land claim and self-government talks.

The groups have asked to meet with John Duncan, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, who is in the capital Tuesday.

Roland has said he'll sign with or without support from aboriginal groups, who would receive close to $4-million to participate in negotiations if they sign on to the agreement-in-principle.

Details can come later: Roland

Roland says details can be ironed out in future negotiations.

"By signing this agreement that allows us to then really get into a negotiations bilaterally amongst aboriginal governments and the public government here," he said.

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus says he doubts the terms of the agreement will be changed after the fact.

"You really can't get your concerns in later unless you sign on, and by signing on it says that you agree," he said.

Eramus says people are losing confidence in both the federal and territorial governments.

"People are quite, I wouldn't say hurt, but they're disappointed that they're not being listened to, they're not being taken seriously," he said. "Because you've got at least 30 communities here that are saying they don't agree with this agreement being signed."

Richard Nerysoo, president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, said the government doesn't seem to want to slow down.

"I think the issue is what's next, and how do we get our issues dealt with, and how do we get involved in the process, particularly if we are not signatories to the agreement."