Minister ‘didn’t want to hear concerns’ says Deninu Kue chief
Chief Louis Balsillie of the Deninu Kue First Nation says he cancelled a meeting with an NWT minister after being told not to stray beyond the topic of housing.
Minister Paulie Chinna arrived in Fort Resolution on September 10 to talk with local leaders about the community’s housing needs.
Chinna is responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation. She is also in charge of the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (Maca) and the minister responsible for homelessness and youth.
Following her visit, Balsillie told Cabin Radio he had refused to attend the meeting on the grounds that the minister was not open to talking about issues beyond housing. He had intended to bring up homelessness and a lack of facilities for Fort Resolution’s youth.
“She didn’t want to hear it. She said, ‘I’m only here for housing. I’m the minister of housing,’” Balsillie alleged, voicing an intent to write to Premier Caroline Cochrane with his concerns.
“Why didn’t the minister give me the time of day to talk about Maca business, homelessness, and the youth?
“Why send a minister into my community when I’m the leader and I want to speak to issues, and I can’t speak to the issues because they don’t want to hear about it?”
Chinna, in a prepared statement issued by the territorial government’s cabinet communications staff, responded: “My recent travel to Fort Resolution was my first to the community and while I respect that Chief Balsillie wanted an individual meeting to discuss his concerns, scheduling restraints meant scheduling combined meetings with the local leadership regarding housing concerns and sharing of information.
“While this was my first trip to that community, it will not be my last. I am also open to receiving invitations from local leadership at any time to discuss issues related to my portfolios.”
Posting to Twitter on the day of the planned meeting, cabinet communications staff said Chinna “had a great first day meeting with community leaders to discuss housing issues in Fort Resolution.”
The same Twitter account placed Chinna in Enterprise the next day, where she reportedly met with the hamlet’s leadership “to discuss housing and community matters.”