Chief April Martel is optimistic following a meeting between K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) and Premier Caroline Cochrane and her cabinet.
“I know things are going to get done because these ministers they’re all working together,” said Martel. “I see how they work together. They’re engaging each other and they’re trying to engage everyone to be on board with what the changes are.”
Martel said the Feb. 18 discussions on the Hay River Reserve – an annual bilateral meeting between KFN and the territorial cabinet – went very well.
“We had a really good connection,” she said.
The chief listed a number of issues discussed by the two sides, most prominently housing.
“That was my number one priority,” she said.
One of the several issues involving housing were the six houses transferred to KFN by the NWT Housing Corporation in August of last year. The houses, which had stood empty for many years, had been renovated by the corporation before the transfer.
However, Martel noted there have been problems with the houses since the transfer, which was done for a nominal fee of $1.
“Everybody moved in, but there were a whole bunch of issues arising from when they moved into those houses,” she said, adding that was probably because the houses had been empty for so long.
“There was one house that was livable only when it was warm outside,” she noted. “When we hit the really cold weather that we had just recently, it started freezing up the pipes. So it is a big issue.”
KFN’s own housing maintainers have been working to repair the problems.
Martel noted KFN is also working with the NWT Housing Corporation on a housing plan for the reserve.
Another recent housing issue involved homeowners on the reserve being unable to obtain financial support for renovations from the NWT Housing Corporation because they don’t have insurance on their homes.
Martel said about 25 applications were rejected last year, and she noted NWT Housing Corporation didn’t consult with KFN on the requirement for insurance.
“So I did let the minister know that I was kind of disappointed in their process and how they handled that situation,” she said, referring to Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) Minister Paulie Chinna, who is responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation.
Martel also raised the issue of a new school bus fee for students in Hay River, including KFN members living in town.
The chief called that situation unacceptable.
Martel noted Premier Cochrane said she will look into the matter.
Other issues discussed at the meeting included healthcare, adult education, KFN’s negotiation process, climate change, GNWT programs and services on the Hay River Reserve, and more.
“We covered a lot of things,” said Martel.
Along with Cochrane and Chinna, the cabinet delegation included Education, Culture and Employment Minister R.J. Simpson; Finance Minister and Justice Minister Caroline Wawzonek; Environment and Natural Resources Minister Shane Thompson; Health and Social Services Minister Diane Thom; and Infrastructure Minister and Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Katrina Nokleby.