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Lack of aboriginal candidates for Yellowknife council concerns advocate

It's been more than 15 years since Yellowknife had an aboriginal city councillor, and in last month's municipal election there wasn't a single aboriginal candidate. Iris Catholique says it's time for that to change.

2 council seats should be set aside for members of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, says Iris Catholique

It's been more than 15 years since Yellowknife had an aboriginal city councillor, and in last month's municipal election there wasn't a single aboriginal candidate — even though about one in four Yellowknife residents are aboriginal.

"Why aren't there more aboriginal people running?" asks Iris Catholique, the  project director for Dene Najho, an advocacy group that promotes indigenous leadership.

"I think they have to be involved. And that means they have to participate."

Catholique says increasing aboriginal representation on council could help solve the issues facing that community.

"They have to sit in those positions. They have to be the councillors. They have to be the mayors. They have to be the MLAs."

Catholique says she'd like to see the city should set aside two seats for members of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, on whose traditional territory the city lies.

"They have insight and history here more than anybody else in the city, so I think it's really important to have them sitting at the table."

Yellowknife Mayor Mark Heyck says that's an interesting idea but he is not sure if territorial legislation would allow that. The mayor says city council has a good relationship with the First Nation.

"Virtually every committee of council we have, almost all have seats designated for a representative nominated by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation," he says.

But Heyck says he doesn't know why aboriginal residents don't often run in Yellowknife municipal elections.

"I think we'd like our council to be a reflection of the community," he says.

"You know, personally I'd be perfectly happy to have more indigenous people running for council but ultimately that's their choice."

With the territorial election coming up on Nov. 23, Catholique's organization is holding a two-night candidates forum focusing on indigenous issues Wednesday and Thursday at the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre.

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