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Deh Cho MLA candidates debate at Fort Providence forum

People in Fort Providence, N.W.T., got to hear from candidates running for MLA in the Deh Cho riding Wednesday evening at a forum hosted by the Dehcho First Nations.

Dehcho Process, language revitalization discussed by candidates

Michael Nadli, Ron Bonnetrouge, Lyle Fabian and Greg Nyuli, candidates for MLA of the Deh Cho constituency, attend a forum at the Snowshoe Inn in Fort Providence, N.W.T., Wednesday night. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

People in Fort Providence, N.W.T., got to hear from candidates running for MLA in the Deh Cho riding Wednesday evening at a forum hosted by the Dehcho First Nations.

The Deh Cho electoral district comprises Enterprise, Fort Providence, Kakisa, and the K'atlodeeche First Nation reserve.

The number 1 question to the candidates was how they would move the Dehcho Process, the land claim negotiations between the Dehcho First Nations and the territorial and federal governments, forward.

Negotiations with the territorial government hit an impasse over the past year when the two sides could not come to an agreement over the amount of land that would be part of a final agreement.

Candidate Ronald Bonnetrouge of Fort Providence said, if elected, he would "keep on the government of the Northwest Territories to make sure that they move along this process and to let them know that it's beneficial to the GNWT and the residents of the Northwest Territories."

Candidate Michael Nadli of Fort Providence served as the district's MLA in the 17th assembly. He said the Dehcho process is his top priority and that he stood up for the Deh Cho during his time in office.

"I was the only one that voted against devolution," he said.

"There was a lot of pressure in terms of getting on board to acquiesce, to succumb to the pressure ...  but I didn't. Because I felt that the unsettled areas, especially the Dehcho and the Tlicho, they have outstanding concerns."

Candidates were also asked how they would encourage parents and kids to keep the Dene language alive.

Candidate Lyle Fabian of the K'atlodeeche First Nation pointed at the Aboriginal Headstart program for preschoolers as the key to protecting Dene language.

"I think what we need to do is to start having our elders back in to the Aboriginal Headstart program and every single one of them needs to talk Dene K'e to the children and naturally the children will start picking up and talking their own language," he said.

Candidate Greg Nyuli of Fort Providence said language immersion was lost during the residential school era and needs to be brought back.

"The real challenge — that is full immersion. Like Lyle said, right from the bottom. In your home, right into the Aboriginal Headstart."

The Dehcho First Nations will hold another forum for candidates in the Nahendeh riding in Fort Simpson on Thursday, Nov. 19.

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