The Sahtu Dene and Métis of Norman Wells signed an agreement-in-principle with the federal and territorial governments on Wednesday, taking a step closer to self-government.
NWT Premier Bob McLeod joined two Liberal MPs representing the federal government and Sherry Hodgson, president of the Norman Wells Land Corporation, at a signing ceremony in the community.
Negotiators continue to work on a final, legally binding deal based on the agreement-in-principle’s text.
Once the deal is finalized, it will create the first fully self-governed Métis community in Canada.
Norman Wells is set to follow the nearby community of Délı̨nę, which achieved self-government in 2016.
The path to such agreements in the Sahtu was first laid out in a landmark 1993 land claim agreement.
‘Travelled many miles’
Danny McNeely, the MLA for the Sahtu, called Wednesday’s ceremony a “huge achievement for self-governance and self-determination.”
Hodgson, representing the land corporation, said in prepared remarks: “When we began these self-government negotiations with Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories in 2007, our goal was to ensure that the rights of the Sahtu Dene and Métis of Norman Wells are preserved and protected for future generations.
“We have travelled many, many miles on that journey. This agreement is an important cairn on that journey.”
Marc Miller, representing the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, termed the agreement-in-principle “a step forward in a renewed relationship between our governments.”
No timeline has been published for the completion of the final agreement.
The government which results from it will be known as the Tłegǫ́hłı̨ Got’ı̨nę Government.
That government will, in time, inherit responsibility for issues ranging from language, culture, and traditional healing, through to education, adoption, income support, and social housing.
The federal government said other areas expected to be taken on by the Tłegǫ́hłı̨ Got’ı̨nę Government include gaming and gambling, liquor, justice, taxation, and a range of local services.
“Negotiation over jurisdictions related to child and family services, guardianship and trusteeship, and wills and estates will take place after [the final agreement] has been in effect for 10 years,” the federal government said in a statement.