Former chief of Délı̨nę Leonard Kenny has been sworn in as the new deputy commissioner of the NWT.
Kenny says he will only step into the role when commissioner Margaret Thom is not available, performing commissioner’s functions such as opening the legislative assembly, providing assent for bills passed in the legislature, giving out awards, and attending graduations.
“I was surprised, and honoured to take on the challenge,” Kenny said of when he heard the news in September. The position was last held by Gerald W Kisoun from 2011 to 2017.
As Ɂek’wahtı̨dǝ́ (“highest honest leader”) of Délı̨nę for six years, Kenny was a key player in leading the community to become the first in the Sahtu to achieve self-government in 2015.
“I know the path self-government will open for us is the right one because it will put us back in control of our lives and, more importantly, it will allow our young people to be strong leaders in the future,” he said in 2013, as the draft of the final agreement was initialed.
According to a biography by Denendeh Investments, Kenny is also known for “spearheading the Délı̨nę Caribou Conservation Plan and being instrumental in the establishment of the Tsa Tue Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site [and] the first Indigenous-managed biosphere in the world.”
MLA for Yellowknife Centre Julie Green wrote on Facebook that Kenny was a “great choice for the position as a former chief and self-government negotiator.”
While he holds office as a member of the Délı̨nę Got’ine Government’s main council, the K’aowedo Ke, Kenny said his political role shouldn’t interfere with this symbolic role as deputy commissioner. “As long as I’m clear what hat I am wearing,” he added.
Kenny said having someone from the Sahtu region in this role is also a first.
Commissioner Thom could not immediately be reached for comment. Thom has herself held the position of deputy commissioner from 2005 to 2011. The commissioner is the federal government’s representative in the NWT, the territorial equivalent of lieutenant governors who serve in the provinces.