North

Dene National Chief wants feds to review N.W.T. devolution legislation

Bill Erasmus said the 2014 legislation behind N.W.T. devolution was illegal on the first day of the Dene National Assembly in Fort Simpson. He is asking federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to review the legislation.

'We were not involved in designing it,' says Bill Erasmus at Dene National Assembly

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus feeds the ceremonial fire at the Dene National Assembly in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., on Monday. (Jimmy Thomson/CBC)

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus says the 2014 legislation behind N.W.T. devolution was illegal.

Erasmus made that statement on the first day of the Dene National Assembly in Fort Simpson. He is asking federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to review the legislation.

"There was a suite of legislation and there were other pieces of legislation which we feel is illegal because it was imposed on us, we were not involved in designing it, and the whole incentive is not to recognize our governments but only Canada," he said.

"So it's really not a legal piece of legislation. And we're encouraging Canada to include it in its review." 

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde attended the assembly Tuesday. He says the AFN would support the Dene Nation in fighting devolution.

"Everything should be reviewed," he said.

"I think we have an opportunity now to fix things. If that's an issue for the Dene in the North here, that should be looked upon as well so we can keep pushing the federal Crown as well to start that process."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the election to review all Harper-era legislation on First Nations.

The devolution legislation, transferring decision-making power over lands, water and resources from the federal government to the territory, took effect April 1, 2014.

The legislation also included the merging of regional land and water boards into one superboard, to take effect in April 2015. However, the N.W.T. Supreme Court granted the Tlicho Government an injunction in March 2015 to stop the merge. Last December, the new Liberal government paused a federal appeal of the injunction.

The Dene National Assembly will continue all week.

with files from Jimmy Thomson