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Taking responsibility for devolution
Editorial Comment - Deh Cho Drum
The question, however, is how much does the regular citizen of the NWT know about devolution and the changes it will bring to the territory. According to Alternatives North, a social justice coalition, most people probably don't know as much as they should.
The organization held a public meeting in Fort Simpson on May 8 as part of an effort to promote thoughtful discussion about devolution and to help people come up with questions they should be asking their MLAs. Alternatives North doesn't think MLAs will debate devolution unless they think their constituents care, which is really the next question.
Do NWT residents care about devolution?
It's impossible to say how much the average person living in Nahanni Butte or Fort Simpson cares about devolution, but even if they don't necessarily care, people do have a responsibility to be informed.
Through devolution, the territorial government will take over responsibility for managing public land, water and resources in the NWT that the federal government currently holds. Devolution, according to the GNWT, will give residents a greater say in how those public lands, water and resources are managed, in how the environment is protected and in how the economy is developed. Devolution will change the territory and the people living in it need to know what those changes will bring.
Some people, however, are taking the stance that devolution is inevitable and will happen whether or not residents like it. The danger with that complacency is that it gives people the false sense that they have no responsibility with regards to devolution.
If people don't take reasonable steps to inform themselves, ask questions and raise concerns, then they are as good as agreeing with devolution. If in a few years down the road, there are aspects of devolution that are not working well for the territory, it will only be those residents who raised concerns and tried to make changes that will have the right to really complain. Conversely, if things go well, those same people can say they actively supported devolution.
Devolution is about to bring a lot of changes to the territory. Residents don't have to care about every little detail, but as responsible citizens they should have an overall understanding of what is coming and how it will affect them, their community and their family. That knowledge can be gained by attending community meetings about devolution, visiting the GNWT's devolution website or by questioning MLAs.
Photo Gallery of the Deh Gah School time capsule