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Youth, training and hunting among main priorities for new Tlicho grand chief

George Mackenzie, the newly elected Grand Chief of Behchoko, was sworn in Sept. 15. This is Mackenzie's second time being elected as grand Chief, he was first elected in 2005 when Tlicho self-government began.

Just as back in 2005, Mackenzie a previous educator and coach, believes the youth are a priority in the communities. He said he ran his platform with that in mind.

"I knew there needed to be something done for the young population, the young voters," he said. "There's a lot of them and I truly believe that the young people, we have to set it up so they are strong to approach the vision that was put forward by chief Jimmy Bruneau. We've got to bring that vision back for the young people."

He also spoke about job training and capacity building for youth in the communities and added there's plenty more to talk about like eligibility for voting rights, supporting small business and looking at the economic structure in order to improve economics.

"We need to form working groups, I could go on and on, but those are the highlights," said Mackenzie. "By doing that we will secure more of our own contracts and give more jobs to our young people so they have something to wake up to in the morning."

Caribou is another big item on the list for Mackenzie. Surveys done in June and July of 2015 showed Bathurst caribou populations dropped to between 16,000 and 22,000 from 32,000 animals in 2012. And the the Bluenose-East herd had declined to between 35,000 and 40,000 from about 68,000 caribou in 2013 with a drop of 50 per cent in breeding cows since 2013. The Wek'eezhii Renewable Resources Board issued a decision in May of 2016 determining a total allowable harvest of zero should be implemented for all users of the Bathurst caribou herd within the Wek'eezhii area until 2019.

"We've been banned from caribou and the people said 'we need to back on the land and start hunting again right away', because if we're banned from caribou hunting it hinders our activities on the land which weakens our culture as a people," he said. "I want to listen to my people. They need to be heard and I'll give all my effort to make myself available as much as possible."