Our strategy has a clear objective – to position ourselves as the credible, national voice of K’áhshó Got’ı̨nę self-government.
In 1993, on behalf of Fort Good Hope, the Sahtu Tribal Council (today known as the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated) signed the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement.
Chapter 5 and Appendix B of that Land Claim Agreement stated the obligation of Canada and the Northwest Territories to negotiate a Self-Government Agreement with Fort Good Hope.
In 2008, Fort Good Hope has entered into negotiations with Canada and the Northwest Territories.
In 2016, Fort Good Hope has signed a Process and Schedule Agreement with Canada and the Northwest Territories.
WHAT IS SELF-GOVERNMENT?
K’ahsho Got’ine are a sovereign nation that have governed ourselves since before Canada was here. Our systems of law and governance still exist and are practised in Fort Good Hope and on our land. This is what K’ahsho Got’ine mean when we talk about “self-government”. K’ahsho Got’ine have always governed ourselves in accordance with our own culture and laws. Our right or ability to govern ourselves does not depend on the consent or agreement of Canada.
NEGOTIATING SELF-GOVERNMENT AGREEMENTS
It is only recently that Canada has acknowledged K’ahsho Got’ine nationhood or governance rights. Canada’s 1982 constitution recognizes and affirms existing aboriginal and treaty rights of Indigenous peoples, and Canada’s 1995 Inherent Right Policy clarifies Canada’s position that “Indigenous peoples have an inherent right of self-government” guaranteed by Canada’s constitution.
Canada’s policy sets out a detailed approach to how Canada will negotiate with Indigenous peoples to agree on formal self-government agreements. These self-government agreements give detail on what jurisdiction and authorities will be held by each government (Indigenous, Canadian federal, and Canadian provincial/territorial) and detail on how the agreements will be implemented including how funding for the Indigenous self-government will be determined and provided.
These negotiated self-government agreements do not reflect actual self-government for ancient nations like K’ahsho Got’ine. The agreements are merely a formal recognition by Canadian governments of limited governance jurisdictions, within the Canadian legal and cultural framework, for Indigenous nations.
For example, Canada flatly refuses to negotiate Indigenous jurisdictions in areas that relate to “Canadian sovereignty, defence and external relations” and “other national interest powers”. This includes things like banking and currency, international treaty-making, immigration, international trade, intellectual property, navigation and shipping, and criminal law.
WHAT IS “JURISDICTION”?
Jurisdiction means the power to make laws. Self-government agreements deal with which government has jurisdiction over different things. Right now, under Canada’s legal and governance system, everything in Fort Good Hope and on K’ahsho Got’ine land is controlled by laws that are made by Canada’s federal government or by the Government of the Northwest Territories. For example, Canada’s federal government has jurisdiction over things like criminal law (laws in the form of written legislation in this area include Canada’s Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act). The Government of the Northwest Territories has jurisdiction over things like education, wildlife, oil and gas, and mining. Self-government negotiations focus on what jurisdictions will be held by a K’ahsho Got’ine government and what jurisdictions will be shared between governments.
WHY IS THE GNWT INVOLVED IN SELF-GOVERNMENT NEGOTIATIONS?
Indigenous governments are recognized by Canada’s constitution. The Government of the Northwest Territories (“GNWT”) is not recognized by Canada’s constitution. The GNWT has no constitutional right to exist as a government, and has no constitutional right to govern. The GNWT was created by Canadian federal government legislation (the Northwest Territories Act) and was given all its governance jurisdictions by Canada’s federal government. It is like a federal government department with an elected legislature. There was no elected GNWT until 1967, decades after the signing of Treaty 11 between K’ahsho Got’ine and Canada in 1921. Many Dene and Metis believe that GNWT should not have a seat at the table in land claim and self-government negotiations, given that historic treaties were signed with representatives of Canada before a territorial government was ever created.
So why is GNWT at the negotiating table?
This is partly because GNWT is a signatory to the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, which gave them a foot in the door to participate in self-government negotiations. But Canada also insists on having GNWT at the table, and it would be a long and difficult process to remove GNWT from the negotiations.