Darlene Sibbeston speaking at the Dehcho Annual Assembly in 2022. Caitrin Pilkington/Cabin Radio
Former Fort Simpson mayor and Métis Council president Darlene Sibbeston says she will run in the Nahendeh district in this fall’s territorial election.
Currently based in Fort Simpson, Sibbeston owns businesses in both the village and Fort Smith. If successful, she plans to focus on education, healthcare and housing.
The Nahendeh district is entirely composed of Dehcho communities: Wrigley, Fort Simpson, Jean Marie River, Nahanni Butte, Sambaa K’e and Fort Liard. (The area formally known as the Deh Cho district covers other communities in the same region, such as Fort Providence, the Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Enterprise and Kakisa.)
“Coming from the Dehcho, we’re in unsettled territory,” said Sibbeston. “I’ve heard stories first-hand of land leases being signed over as title deeds, poor communication from the government. Finalizing a Dehcho settlement agreement would be a high priority.”
Beyond settling the Dehcho claim, Sibbeston wants to see improved road access for Dehcho communities. She remembers driving to Yellowknife in 2006 and seeing roads being paved over.
“That was almost 20 years ago, but our region still has gravel roads,” she said. “We should at least have a road that’s chipsealed – we need to see a plan for progress.”
Nahendeh has been represented by Shane Thompson since 2015. Thompson is the NWT’s minister responsible for environment and climate change, municipal and community affairs, and youth in addition to his duties as the district MLA.
“It’s harder to fight for your community when you’re a minister,” said Sibbeston, who said regular communication with constituents would be a top priority. “There’s a different level of openness that’s available to you when you’re a regular MLA than when you’re a minister.”
Thompson has not shared publicly if he will run again. Josh Campbell announced plans to run for the position in May.
The territorial election is scheduled for October 3. Candidates can announce their intention to run at any time, but can only confirm their nomination once the election period begins in September.
Sibbeston said she believes her background in politics and business, as well as her roots in the Dehcho, make her a strong candidate for MLA.
“I bring honesty and transparency to the table,” said Sibbeston. “I understand how to hold the government accountable because I’ve worked both in and outside of government for many years.
“I’ve thought about this for a long time. And I’m at a point in my life where I feel that now is the right time.”