07/07/2012 02:21 EDT | Updated 09/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Premier won't let Tlicho join devolution negotiations

The N.W.T.’s premier has turned down the Tlicho government’s request for a seat at the devolution negotiating table.

In a written statement, Premier Bob McLeod said his government is committed to discussing devolution with the Tlicho but they must sign on to the agreement to participate in negotiations.

“We would welcome them, or any remaining regional aboriginal government, to join us at the table once they have signed the agreement-in-principle,” he said.

This week Tlicho Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus told the Dene Assembly in Whati, N.W.T. that the Tlicho agreement guarantees his people a place in the negotiations as a full partner during any discussion of devolution or transfer of resources.

The proposed devolution deal outlines how the territory's land, water and resources will be transferred from Ottawa. Only one Dene government, the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated, has endorsed the deal.

Erasmus said the premier’s response shows the territorial government doesn’t understand the Tlicho agreement.

“This is a slap in the face,” he said. “This makes me feel the territorial government has no respect at all for the agreements in the territories.”

The only government representatives at the week-long assembly able to speak about devolution were the principal secretary, Gary Bohnet, and the chief territorial negotiator, Martin Goldney.

Erasmus refused to speak to them, saying in Tlicho, "where is the premier? I will not speak to the assistant."

McLeod said his government has had several meetings with the Tlicho leadership, most recently on June 29.

He also said the Tlicho government and the territorial government recently signed a memorandum of understanding, committing to working together, government to government.

McLeod went on to say he offered to attend the Tlicho Assembly in Wekweti, N.W.T. next week.

Whati Chief Alfonz Nitsiza said like it or not, the Tlicho will be part of the devolution process.

“Because we are a government we will go to the table. The premier or the cabinet threw us out, fine but expect us there,” he said.