Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T., votes to become a hamlet, with a mayor and council
Voters in Tsiigehtchic have made it official: the chartered community of about 200 people will turn into a hamlet, with its own mayor and council.
The community held a plebiscite Tuesday on the issue. Seventy-six per cent of voters said they were in favour of the change.
The move will mean the community would be led by a mayor and council separate from the Gwichya Gwich'in band council. While Tsiigehtchic has a chartered community council, several members — the mayor's spot and two of five council positions — are automatically filled by the band council.
James Andre, who sits on the chartered community council, said the turnout surprised him — and it goes to show how much the community wanted this.
"I think it just proved it. And as a councillor, I'm very proud," he said. "What the community wants, we have to follow."
Andre said he's been concerned about how plenty of long-time community members don't have a voice come election time, because they are from different bands or communities, or are not Indigenous.
With a mayor and council, that would change.
"Now, the community votes how they want it," he said. "One guy told me, 'Finally, I have a voice! After living here like 20 years, I'm finally going to have a voice.' It makes me feel really happy."
He said he thinks the change would also make it easier for the community to access federal pots of money, instead of waiting for the band to apply for that funding.
The N.W.T. Department of Municipal and Community Affairs said in February it planned to start the process to turn Tsiigehtchic into a hamlet, with the goal of having the process complete in August.
A tentative date has been set for June 14 for a public meeting to discuss the next steps.
It was not immediately clear what impact, if any, the change could have on the community's self-government negotiations, which began in 1992.