Dene national chief candidate profile: Paulie Chinna

The next Dene National Chief will be elected on July 24.

Voting will open on July 14. Ballots can be cast online, or in-person, at the Dene National Assembly in Fort Good Hope in July.

There are a record six candidates in the running this year and as campaigns get underway, NNSL Media reached out to the six candidates with a set of identical questions.

The third to provide answers was Paulie Chinna, who previously served as the GNWT's Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), Minister of Housing, and Minister Responsible for Homelessness.

What is your age?

48

Where do you live?

Norman Wells

What is your experience?

"Over the past 20 years, I have worked with the Government of the Northwest Territories across various departments, contributing to policy development and strategic planning. My experience includes sitting on numerous boards; collaborating with land claim governments to support discussions on community engagement and strategic projects."

What made you decide to run for the position?

"As a former member of the legislative assembly and cabinet, I recognized the ongoing issues related to mental health, addictions, education, infrastructure and the critical importance of treaty rights. I want to commit my experience to collaborate with the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations and local chiefs and councils throughout the Northwest Territories to develop and implement sustainable solutions by focusing to improve local services and develop partnerships with the settled land claim/self government and unsettled land claim areas as well.

"I feel it's a responsibility of Dene Nation to adequately support and develop these partnerships with the federal government and the Assembly of First Nations to recognize the treaty rights in the Northwest Territories."

Wildfires are becoming a recurring threat to NWT communities. What should be the Dene Nation’s role in addressing this?

"Respectfully, we do have communities throughout the Northwest Territories that hold direct relationships with the federal government, territorial government and also represented by their respected Indigenous governments. In response, I would like to work closely with the affected communities when it comes to any emergencies that hold our communities to threat. I feel that Dene Nation needs to improve their working relationship with the Government of the Northwest Territories when lobbying efforts are required for additional funding from the federal government. At this time I can see Dene Nation as being more of a supportive role in accessing federal funding but also recognizing their inherent and treaty rights in the Northwest Territories."

A shortage of housing is a widespread problem. How would you propose to get more homes built in the near future?

"Recently, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the federal government recognized the treaty right holders through out the Northwest Territories and work respectfully with the Indigenous governments, therefore we see a number of housing projects taking place this year. Lobbying efforts with Assembly of First Nations needs to improve and the lobbying efforts with the federal government needs to continue."

How damaging to relations with the Dene Nation was the GNWT’s caribou seizure from the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation’s culture camp in September 2022? How would you like to see this resolved?

"Respectfully, I would like to work with the affected community and understand what has been decided, but most importantly recognize the treaty rights. This is a sensitive issue and this is where working in collaboration is crucial."

The federal government recently contributed $5 million to advance a Denendeh Investments-operated prospective iron, copper and gold mine near Great Bear Lake. How important is mining to the NWT’s economy?

"Mining is extremely important for the Northwest Territories, it contributes to our economy providing training, employment and skill building opportunities, but most importantly in the position of the Dene Nation, the organization needs to be more involved in making sure treaty rights holders are being provided opportunity and support fairly but also the regulatory process needs to be improve but also most importantly the communities that are not within settled land claim areas should be consulted."

Tom Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, NWT News/North