This interview was recorded on October 27, 2023. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Aastha Sethi: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and share some of your work?
Vince Teddy: I’ll try to summarize who I am. My name is Vince Teddy. My official name is Joseph Vincent Teddy. My traditional [Inuvialuktun] name is Osokak. I lived in Tuktoyaktuk for many decades now. I went to school in Inuvik, up to junior high. Then Fort Smith for junior high, and then back to Inuvik again. Completed grade 12, and a little while later went to University of Alberta for one semester and came back home ever since then. So that’s a brief summary of who I am until my early 20s.
Then, in my early 20s, I helped Inuvialuit negotiate the land agreement. Then from there, I went to school in Winnipeg. When the exploration for the Beaufort Sea stopped in the 80s, I worked for the community of Tuktoyaktuk not only as a hamlet councillor but also at the Tuktoyaktuk Community Corporation. I was elected as the chair of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation for many years. That’s basically what happened in the 80s to the early 90s.
In 1996, I was appointed as the Inuvialuit self-government negotiator on behalf of the IRC. We worked for federal and territorial government negotiators to complete an agreement in principle. We did that in 2017, so that was a long period of time when I worked on behalf of the Inuvialuit, and worked with both federal and territorial governments as a negotiator. We went as far as negotiating to complete that AIP. The other two governments agreed upon it. Inuvialuit agreed upon it as negotiators and we tabled it with IRC and the other two governments tabled it with their respective governments on their behalf.
Now, it’s 2023 and the self-government agreement hasn’t been ratified. I think it’s something that should be completed because it’s a good self-government agreement. That took me to 2017 and then for a period of time, more or less, I was retired until the fall of 2017. I went to Fort Smith for a couple of years and completed a diploma on theology through the Sub-Arctic Leadership Training (SALT) College. I came back home in 2019. I was, more or less, retired again and then in late 2019, the MLA for Nunakput asked me to work on his behalf. I said, “OK, I shall do that.” I love working with my people in Nunakput, so I worked on behalf of my MLA, Jackie Jacobson and that was until October 13, 2023. So that’s a brief history of myself.
Why did you put your name forward for election this year? What are some of the pressing issues in your region that you’re focusing on?
In the past, I have run for MLA and was unsuccessful, but came close. Now, after Jackie Jacobson announced that he won’t be running again, that gave me food for thought to continue working for Nunakput, not only as a constituency assistant but also as an MLA. So I have a lot of experience. The biggest talent I will bring as an MLA for Nunakput is that I know government programs and services as a negotiator for Inuvialuit. That’s what we did, was push it with both governments, on how we can [provide] programs and services on behalf of Inuvialuit. Over those 20-plus years, I learned quite a bit about what the government does and how they do it – the legislation, policies, regulations. I have a lot of experience. I can speak with people individually or in a public session. I am a good listener. Over the years, I learned how to listen to people and bring their interests and concerns forward. So experience, knowledge, education, objectivity, leadership – those are my strengths.
During his term, Jackie Jacobson was critical of the carbon tax. If you’re elected, what are some of the issues you will be focusing on?
Well immediately, the first order of business if elected, is to look at the cost of living and inflation. That’s where we are going to need help from the federal government. Something that is required of government is to help people, to make sure that they’re safe and healthy. The federal government gives financial resources to the territorial government to operate as a government. Over the last two and a half years, inflation and the cost of living has skyrocketed. Of course, the world and other countries have an impact on that. Carbon tax has an effect on it. So we’re going to have to work with the federal government, and work together to reduce the cost of living.
Most of the northern parts of the NWT are very reliant on petroleum resources to heat homes and run power. That’s the main source of energy. We can’t help it because of the climate and the conditions we live in, and the remoteness. How can the federal government help us overcome that? With the cost of living and with building a good climate change plan for the future. It won’t happen overnight. I know that a plan is in the works with the territorial government. We need to work with the federal government in order to implement something that works.
Climate change is a pressing issue, now more than it has ever been before. What do you think can be done differently on a territorial level to deal with it?
Well in the southern part, where you live in Yellowknife, it is not as challenging as where I live in Nunakput. Even the Sahtu has challenges, in a lot of remote communities there. Transitioning from petroleum to other sources of energy like wind or solar, we can’t just do that overnight in a matter of a year or three years. It has got to be done in a long-term plan. The reliance on petroleum energy resources today is still needed here in Tuktoyaktuk. We still need to buy fuel for heat. We still need to buy fuel for the power corporation. We need help from the federal government to compensate for the carbon plan.
If you’re elected, what would be the first few things you would do as an MLA?
Inflation and cost of living would be the first one. Housing in remote and northern communities is the second one I would look into, because there is a shortage of housing in remote northern communities such as the place I live in. That’s something that needs a good plan.
What do you think can be done to address the challenge of housing?
There’s a lot of older public housing that the NWT still manages. How do we do the resourcing to renovate at the community level in remote and northern communities? That’s a big issue because most remote and northern communities, we don’t have a public base where a business could come in and build houses and rent them out. We’re still dependent on the territorial government to do public housing, and the big shortfall I see in Nunakput and northern communities is: How do you renovate a house so it becomes safe and healthy, more cost-efficient and energy-efficient?
The third one would be health and social services. There’s a shortage of doctors, nurses, more elderly people. The northern climate affects the daily life of a northerner. Health services are needed for that. Health services need adjustments to help northern communities to stay healthy, stay safe. A big aspect of health and social services is addictions recovery. That’s something that needs a plan. How do we go about building a good plan to help our people overcome addiction?
Fourth would be partnerships. How do we work together? On of the biggest power sources that we have in the North is Indigenous governments. They have a source of power. They have authority. Let’s improve relationships and how we work with Indigenous governments to overcome the things I talked about. Working with Indigenous governments is important.
Asked to declare any outstanding lawsuits, debts or other issues that might form a conflict if elected, the candidate said there were none.