Yellowknife signs agreement with First Nations but cancels reconciliation advisor at the same time

Leaders in Yellowknife are celebrating the renewal of a partnership agreement that outlines how parties will partner on infrastructure and economic development but decrying the cancellation of a reconciliation advisor in the city.

On the agreement side, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the city of Yellowknife are updating an agreement created nearly two decades ago.

The memorandum of understanding comes as the city develops a reconciliation action plan and the Yellowknives Dene prepare the final stages of a land claim.

“We have to settle a boundary between us and the economic benefits and those collaborations where we need to work together to economically sustain both communities,” said Fred Sangris, chief Dettah, Yellowknives Dene First Nation.

While both governments are emphasising the mutual cooperation and benefits of signing, the MOU comes on the heels of a controversial decision by the city not to renew a contract for an Indigenous relations advisor.

The federal position ends in February.

Indigenous leaders are frustrated.

“I see some improvement in the actual relationship with the city of Yellowknife and YKDFN, a middle person, a go to person. A person who respects our YKDFN,” said Ernest Betsina, chief of N’Dilo-Yellowknives.

APTN News covered some of the work done by the Indigenous relations advisor which included hosting public engagement sessions on reconciliation ideas.

“With that funding we were able to hire a term position and so the position was responsible for developing a plan,” said Rebecca Alty, mayor of Yellowknife. “Once that plan is developed it will be throughout the city all staff will be responsible for implementing it.”

Stacie Smith is the city’s only Indigenous councillor.

She wanted the city to renew the contract.

“The question is, why didn’t the city find value in this position but they find value in other positions,” said Smith. “It comes down to the worth of what this position is supposed to do.

“I know in the grand scheme of things they have their action plan, but reconciliation goes beyond an 18 month term.”

Video Journalist / Yellowknife

Charlotte joined APTN in January 2017 as a video journalist in Yellowknife, N.W.T.. Before coming to APTN she interned at CTV Lethbridge, earned her BA in feminist research from Western University and her obtained post-graduate in journalism at Humber College.