"Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye": Territorial Officials' Perspectives on the Division of the Northwest Territories

By Timpson, Annis May | Canadian Public Administration, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

"Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye": Territorial Officials' Perspectives on the Division of the Northwest Territories


Timpson, Annis May, Canadian Public Administration


Sommaire : Les travaux academiques sur la division juridictionnelle au Canada n'ont prete que peu d'attention aux dimensions bureaucratiques de cet exercice, mais se sont par contre concentres sur les aspects politiques, constitutionnels et economiques du processus. Le present article examine ce desequilibre en analysant les perspectives de hauts fonctionnaires du gouvernement des Territoires du Nord-Ouest (GTNO) qui ont ete directement impliques dans la gestion du processus de division territoriale qui preceda la creation de Nunavut. Se fondant sur toute une gamme d'interviews de hauts dirigeants du CTNO, l'article souligne les differentes perspectives de ceux qui ont coordonne les aspects financiers et administratifs de la division l'echelle du gouvernement, ceux qui ont micro-gere la division au niveau des ministeres et qui continuent a gerer les organismes qui servent de sites aux nouvelles relations trans-territoriales entre les Territoires du Nord-Ouest et Nunavut. L'article examine les complexites financieres, administratives et pratiques dues a la creation de deux nouveaux gouvernements au moment de la division et etudie comment la juridiction qui est divisee se reinvente ensuite. Il prend l'exemple des Territoires du Nord-Ouest pour accroitre la sensibilisation a l'importance d'examiner les dimensions bureaucratiques de la division juridictionnelle.

On 1 April 1999 the Arctic territory of Nunavut was carved out of the Northwest Territories, marking the fifth time in Canadian history that the boundaries of the NWT had been changed to create new sub-national jurisdictions. The modernization, expansion and increasing autonomy of territorial governments in the late twentieth century meant that the bureaucratic dimension of division was more complex than it had been when the Yukon and the prairie provinces were sub-divided from the NWT in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite this, very few analysts of the Canadian North have focused on the bureaucratic dimensions of division. Most scholarship on the recent division of the Northwest Territories has focused instead on the political and constitutional issues raised. (3)

The focus on political and constitutional dimensions of territorial division reflects the fact that the recent division of the NWT was highly contested and raised a host of issues about the settlement of Aboriginal land claims, the degree that Inuit could control the governance of the new territory, the impact that division would have on the western region of the Northwest Territories, and the constitutional implications of creating a new sub national jurisdiction in Canada. Nonetheless, the implementation of division placed significant bureaucratic demands on public officials in the NWT. Analysing this dimension of division expands understanding of public administration in the Canadian North. It also offers insights for public officials who may become engaged in the future creation of new jurisdictions, whether these result from the settlement of Aboriginal land claims, a referendum on Quebec sovereignty, or from more routine forms of government reorganization and restructuring.

Graham White, Kirk Cameron, and Jack Hicks have highlighted the importance of examining bureaucratic dimensions of the recent division of the NWT and the creation of Nunavut. (4) This article expands their scholarship by focusing on the experiences of senior public officials in the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) who coordinated the financial and administrative aspects of territorial government division in the mid-1990s and managed the process of division at the departmental level. (5)

Background to the division of the Northwest Territories

The logistics of administering division can be set in context by exploring briefly how territorial division came to pass. The idea took root in 1976 when the Inuit Tapisarat of Canada (a national organization representing all Inuit across Canada) proposed the creation of Nunavut as part of a comprehensive land claims settlement for Inuit in the Northwest Territories. …

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