More than 50 Yellowknives Dene First Nation members came to hear three Ndilo chief candidates speak Thursday ahead of a Sept. 6 election.
The YKDFN Ndilo Chiefs’ Forum was the first opportunity for members of the First Nation to hear from the candidates running for Ndilo chief: Alex Beaulieu, Ernest Betsina and Shirley Tsetta. Shortly after the opening prayer, members of the local media – CBC, Moose FM, Yellowknifer and Native Press – were asked to leave the forum after a members’ vote.
Tsetta voted to let the media stay, adding she was unhappy about the outcome because only a handful of members participated. For this type of vote, Tsetta said there is no minimum number of voters needed to pass a decision.
“I wanted the media to stay, I did,” she said. “I was telling people that not everybody is here and some of the members that couldn’t make it, they wanted to hear it and read about it.”
Tsetta said she was unhappy that only people who happened to attend the forum benefitted from hearing what the candidates had to say.
Ernest Betsina, candidate and incumbent Ndilo chief, said he did not participate in the vote on whether to have media stay or leave as he wanted to see what the members thought.
“Last time I ran, there was no media there,” said Betsina, when asked how common it is for media not to be allowed to attend pre-election events. “It’s the membership, they’re in charge, so we asked them.”
Without media spreading the word about the candidates and their platforms, Betsina said he plans to visit the membership in Ndilo and Dettah in their homes. Tsetta said she will reach out to members by going door-to-door, posting on Facebook and doing media interviews.
Betsina said one challenge is connecting with members living in Yellowknife, and outside the city.
The three candidates said they were pleased with the turnout and the discussion at the forum, which lasted nearly two hours longer than the scheduled two hours.
One major topic of conversation was the amount of vehicles and other refuse in yards around Ndilo.
Betsina said many members were complaining about the cars and the owners were there as well to respond.
“All in all, the majority of people said they want all that area to be cleaned up,” he said. “So I have to listen to my people and that’s the direction I got so when I get elected in I’ll definitely get that area cleaned up.”
Beaulieu said homelessness, addictions and housing were all important issues raised.
“A band in Yellowknife like this, we should be the richest band across Canada but it looks to me like we’re at the very tail end of it,” Beaulieu said. “In order to curb that we have to go back to our grassroots.”
Betsina added Ndilo is running out of land for people to build homes.
Tsetta said members wanted more members of YKDFN employed at Det’on Cho Corporation and the band.
“Why aren’t our members employed in some of those positions, why are they held by other people?” she said, echoing the questions she heard from the public.
Other community members were concerned about how long the land-claim negotiations are taking, something that all three candidates have stated as a priority in their run for Ndilo chief.
The last election for Ndilo chief was held in 2013. Ernest Betsina won with 122 votes against Shirley Tsetta’s 121 and acting chief Roy Erasmus Sr.’s 108 votes.
Advanced voting ahead of the Sept. 6 election will start Aug. 30 and run until Sept. 5. YKDFN members can vote in advance from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the first floor of the Det’on Cho building in Ndilo. On Sept. 6 YKDFN members can vote from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Dettah and Ndilo gyms as well as the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre in Yellowknife.