Richard Edjericon in the NWT legislature in February 2023.
Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Richard Edjericon says the NWT government should change the way it works on housing with Indigenous governments.
In the legislature last week, Edjericon provided a December letter from the Dene Nation – signed by Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine – to Premier Caroline Cochrane.
Antoine writes: “Dene Chiefs were shocked and disappointed to learn that money allocated to Dene communities in the NWT were subsequently spent on public housing projects through Housing NWT in 2021-22 and are being planned to be spent in 2022-23.”
The letter asserts that while the NWT government had said partnerships with Indigenous governments would be used to spending $60 million in housing cash received from Ottawa, “these partnerships have not materialized or developed and proper engagement and decision-making did not occur.”
Edjericon said First Nations leaders ought to be the ones making decisions about projects in their communities.
“Nothing for us, without us is something that I’ve heard from the premier in the past,” said Edjericon.
“Now, I’m asking that she lives up to those words and acts immediately to consult and collaborate with the First Nations and make real progress on the housing crisis before the end of this term.”
Edjericon asked that the premier commit to meeting with Dene Nation leaders, as requested in Antoine’s letter, to ensure remaining federal dollars are spent in ways that benefit their communities.
Deputy premier Diane Archie, speaking on Cochrane’s behalf – the premier was in Ottawa at the time – said she could not commit Cochrane to meeting with Indigenous groups but would raise the matter with her.
Archie also noted that while the premier may not have met with the Dene Nation on the issue, she had met with other Indigenous groups.
“I do want to note that the premier and cabinet have been in several discussions with people like the Council of Leaders, bilateral meetings,” said Archie. “We are meeting with the Indigenous groups.”
Archie said the territory hope to have “continued collaboration, more continued support, more continued dialogue” in the months ahead.
Housing NWT, the territorial housing agency, has previously stated that much work around housing in the territory is now better led by Indigenous groups.
“Canada is now directly funding Indigenous governments for housing and other services,” deputy minister Eleanor Young said last year as Housing NWT backed away from issuing its own housing plans for each community.
“We’ve agreed to take our cue from the Indigenous government in each community on how they want to move forward,” Young said at the time.