Detah chief says his community should have been included in cannabis consultation tour

A community leader in Detah says a legislative committee isn't doing enough to make sure people's concerns about cannabis legalization are heard.

Chief says his residents won't go to Yellowknife for consultations

Edward Sangris, the chief of Detah for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, in Yellowknife on April 21, 2015. Sangris says N.W.T. legislators should come to Detah to talk to residents about upcoming cannabis legalization. (CBC)

A community leader in Detah says a legislative committee isn't doing enough to make sure his people's concerns about cannabis legalization are heard.

"The government's trying to push something down people's throat," he said. "Most people don't realize how it will affect [their] communities."

Sangris says Detah already has problems with drugs and alcohol. He wants a community consultation to happen there. MLAs are currently in the midst of a whirlwind tour across the territory that will have them visiting 17 communities in 11 days — but not Detah.

"If they don't come to our community, the government won't know what [people here] think about it," said Sangris. "Their views, and the views from the greater city of Yellowknife, might be different."

Detah is a 20 minute drive away from Yellowknife, where a public meeting will be held on May 3.

But Sangris says his community has a distinct culture — and that his residents are unlikely to commute to the capital city to share their opinions.

'Government dropped the ball,' says MLA

Kieron Testart, chair of the government operations committee, says that legislators' tour of the territory was "unprecedented" and that his colleagues "worked diligently" to get to as many people as they could so they could review the bill and hold government accountable.

Testart says the blame should fall on the shoulders of the Premier's cabinet for not doing more consultations with small communities last year before they drafted the territory's marijuana act.

In 2017, the GNWT created a survey for feedback, visited nine communities in the span of three months, and wrote to several community leaders asking them to fill out a survey.

"The government definitely dropped the ball," Testart said. "Now that the committee has the opportunity to review the bill and travel [seeking feedback] on the bill, it is very clear the frustration that many of these communities feel."

Testart says that he's spoken to people in isolated and remote communities who fear they won't be able to enforce the bill. He says his committee would reach out to the Yellowknives Dene and find a way to get their feedback.