Candidates in the N.W.T. election were asked to reflect on Canada's settler colonial history and how they'd maintain good relationships with Indigenous peoples during an all-candidates forum in Yellowknife on Monday.
Kate Reid, a candidate in the Great Slave district, said her first job for NWT Archives had been going through residential school records and giving copies of those records to people making claims to the federal government.
"That eats away at you," she said, her voice wavering with emotion.
"Since that time, I've committed myself to learning and respecting the lived experience of Indigenous peoples in this territory that I will never fully comprehend, but can listen and learn from."
Of the 56 candidates running in the Nov. 14 election, 17 participated in Monday's forum and 14 appeared in person — packing the table at the front of a conference room at the Explorer Hotel. Most of the candidates who attended are running in Yellowknife ridings, with the exception of Sharon Allen, Vince McKay, Hans Weidemann and Nadine Delorme.
FOXY, a non-profit that does sexual health and peer leadership programming for young people, organized the event. You can watch the entire forum on FOXY's Facebook page.
Nancy MacNeill, the moderator, said all the questions were submitted by people under 25 years old — and each one was answered by four or five randomly selected candidates. The questions covered a range of topics including the housing crisis, tenant protections, health services for starting families, and an increase in violence toward LGBTQ communities.
"I would say the last four years being MLA for Great Slave has been an amazing education on the history of colonial systems and evolution of the territories in Canada," said Katrina Nokleby. She's running for re-election in Great Slave against Reid, Stacie Arden Smith and James Lawrance.
"My voting record in the house shows that I have supported small communities probably more so sometimes than Great Slave and Yellowknife's interests might dictate," said Nokleby.
Keiron Testart, who is running in Range Lake, described himself as a settler in Yellowknife. Understanding what that means is a constant learning process, he said, which involves reflecting on the harms of colonization and how Indigenous nations can recover by leading in their own traditional territories.
Nadine Delorme, who is running in Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, said she's a Yellowknives Dene First Nation member and "before that I was a Métis member, and before that I was Ameri-Canadian."
"My connection to the land is absolute," she said. As for how she'd maintain good relationships with people in the N.W.T., Delorme said "one can only hope that because I'm Indigenous, it'll be a natural and organic process."
Hans Weidemann, who is trying to unseat R.J. Simpson in Hay River North, said "these people that I represent, most have to count change for the next meal." Weidemann said he ran a cab company and he "saw them every day," and become "so vested in their lives."
"The best thing I can do, in the Legislature, is to recognize the agreements for what they are. A nation-to-nation agreement. And how can the GNWT [Government of the Northwest Territories] inject itself in that process when the GNWT is nothing but a glorified department of the federal government?"
There were some humorous and blunt moments too — most involving Yellowknife North candidate Jon Howe.
"You're not going to like this answer," he said, gearing up to respond to a question about helping artists make a living at their craft. "If you want to make a living selling art, then you better make art worth buying."
He also told the audience that John Diefenbaker had been a hero to him once, but said claims that Diefenbaker had illegimate children had been a "huge disappointment."
"You can't imagine a guy that ugly and goofy doing it. Just cringey."