Q&A: Tłı̨chǫ grand chief candidates

Jackson Lafferty, George Mackenzie and Eddie Erasmus are running for Tłıchǫ grand chief.

Prior to the Tłı̨chǫ grand chief elections being postponed, CKLB spoke with the three candidates about their vision if elected.

The new date for the election is Nov. 18.

The interviews were edited for clarity. 

Jackson Lafferty

Why are you running for the position of Tłı̨chǫ grand chief?

I understand it is a huge responsibility, one that I feel I’m ready to take on.

I believe I have the skills and experience from over the last 16 years as the MLA for Monfwi to be the grand chief.

I intend to make every effort to bring people’s concerns and issues together, in order to be Tłı̨chǫ strong. I’m a firm believer in that. I understand that the Tłı̨chǫ  have incredible and hard-working elders over the years, and leaders of the past and I want to continue that legacy.

It is essential that the Tłı̨chǫ Government become more open and transparent. That requires much more effort in a way that information is shared and communicated.

We also have to focus on our youth as well. The youth need to be part of our leadership discussion at the assembly table. They feel that they’re left out so they need to be included. That was one of my drives.

I want nothing more than to serve Tłı̨chǫ people, the youth, the elders, the families, young and old and to try to help improve the quality of life.

What are some of the biggest issues you believe facing the communities right now?

There are quite a few. Obviously, housing is a big issue for us.  There’s a lack of housing in all communities not just our communities, but throughout the Northwest Territories.  When it comes to housing, most of the time it doesn’t meet the needs of our community. We should seriously look at that as a government. How can we deliver our own programming into our communities?

Another one is this whole youth addiction (issue), we have a lot of young people dealing with their addiction(s). I feel that we need to have our own addiction treatment centre on our land, a program that is run by our own people.

We should have our own senior management of Tłı̨chǫ people. I feel that it’s time that we would seriously look at that with our post-secondary students, and bring them back to our region and have them start working for us.

Having our own regional police manpower. We desperately need the security of the bylaws in our communities, there’s an outcry from the elders. We need to protect our elders.

The other issue is the constitution, and how we can re-evaluate our existing constitution.

Another area that captured my attention is homelessness, we have a lot of our people out on the streets. We need to reach out to them, they’re crying for help. It’s time that we (create) certain programs or employment for them on the land. There are tons of opportunities that can be created for them.

Those are just some of the key areas I want to touch on.

How do you plan on combating some of those issues?

(We) have to create partnerships with various organizations, the GNWT and federal government would have to play a huge part in this.

People are saying that we’re divided as a nation, we need to bring all of us back together, to set long-term plans.

We need to start listening to them, we need to put their words into action because they’re the ones who elected us. We need to do our job and follow through with their concerns and issues, recommendations, ideas, that are being brought to our attention.

Youth is our future leadership. Let’s turn to our youth, they’re the ones struggling right now.

If we come together, nothing is impossible. Everything is doable.

Eddie Erasmus

Why are you running for the position of Tłı̨chǫ grand chief?

I am running because a lot of people have told me that I should run.

I was taught the Tłı̨chǫ way of life and speak Tłı̨chǫ.

I have a lot of experience in leadership capacities. I served as executive director of the Dogrib tribal council and was the grand chief (at one time).

I am one of the members that worked on the agreement and the constitution.

The grand chief is responsible to provide overall political leadership for Tłı̨chǫ nation. To encourage the resolution of internal disputes and conflicts within Tłı̨chǫ  and promote fundamental principles in the constitution.

If anybody wishes to find more information as to how governance works they can contact me.

What are some of the biggest issues and challenges facing the communities at this time?

One of the biggest challenges would be to build a strong regional economy. The other issue is to improve housing conditions for citizens, including homelessness – ensuring there is a Tłı̨chǫ  strategy to address addictions, wellness and healing programs.

In addition, to committing to the needs of our youth and elders.

In order to accomplish our goals, we must continue to be united.

How do you plan on combating these issues?

This is a unique, traditional, Aboriginal government that makes decisions on consensus and working together with the chiefs and assembly members.

We have to work with those that are there now. That’s how decisions are made. They’re the ones that make the law and communications within are very important on how we move forward on a lot of these issues.

George Mackenzie

Why are you running for the position of Tłı̨chǫ grand chief?

I’ve been the grand chief for the last four years. There are many accomplishments we have done in four years that have never been done (before).

I have built a very healthy, positive, good relationship with the premier, cabinet ministers and the MLAs of the NWT. Also, I’ve built very good relationships with the ministers in Ottawa.

I’ve attended nearly all the Dene Nation meetings and gathering. My chair was not empty.

That is the kind of relationship you have to build for your people to work well with people around you, not only Tłı̨chǫ.

You have to talk good for your people look after your people well and be kind to all the Tłı̨chǫ people.

Wherever you go, you go as a father figure and represent us well. That’s what I’ve done and that’s who I am. And that’s why I’m ready for grand chief again, for the next four years.

What would you say are some of the biggest issues facing your communities right now? 

There are many, many today.

Drugs and alcohol addiction is one of the biggest ones.

The housing issue is in crisis and jobs are much needed for young people.

I’m really worried about that one. I know how politics work. I’ve seen it. Through the years I’ve been in politics, people get elected. They only favour their supporters, their family, their friends, and leave the rest out.

I’m about honesty and what is the best and fairest way to deal with my people.

So bad politics does not take over. Now people are tired of bad politics that have been going on too long, too many years. For all the ones to always get elected, sit on all the board, put their family to work on drug and alcohol workshops.

This is enough and has to stop if we are to make self-government work good. That’s why I put my name back in for grand chief for the next four years.

How do you plan on combating or resolving some of those issues and challenges you mentioned before?

We have to roll up our sleeves. We have to involve as many Tłı̨chǫ people as we can.

We need to have a public meeting in all the four committees and a drug and alcohol strategy. So people can buy into it, they will be a part of it. That’s one thing we have to do, as soon as the election is over.

Housing, we have to make sure that we select a good working group, a housing working group that can plan well for us. What I mean by that is, we will not have people in the past that were self-interest serving.  That has to be done away. We have to plan to create a good working group. So the money for housing is going to spend wisely and with fairness.

About the Author

Mariah Caruso
Mariah Caruso is a digital journalist, originally from Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Hons. Bachelor of Arts and completed her Journalism post-grad at Sheridan College. She has an insatiable appetite for life, storytelling, connecting to the people, and getting to the heart of the issue. Mariah is excited to begin her journey and career in Yellowknife, NWT, and get involved with the community. If you have a story idea, feel free to send her an email at mariah.caruso@cklbradio.com