After hearing OLIP alum rave about their experiences in Yellowknife for months, we were keen to explore Canada’s Great White North. Rumour had it that our trip would be one of the most memorable weeks of the entire programme (and possibly our entire lives).
Even so, I’m not sure any us ever imagined how incredible our week would be.
We were spoilt beyond description.
Our first official day in Yellowknife found us wandering through the downtown core in an attempt to find the NWT Legislature. After (briefly) mistaking the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre for the Legislature, we successfully located the stunning building that acted as our home away from home from the next week.
We were warmly greeted by Gail Bennett, the Principal Clerk in the Legislature and – equally importantly – Mastermind of OLIP’s Trips to the North. After reviewing our week ahead, Gail escorted us to our meeting with Tim Mercer, the Legislature’s Clerk. Tim has traditionally introduced the interns to the NWT’s form of governance through a presentation titled “Inside the Sausage Maker: A Guide to Consensus governance.” Previous generations of interns had informed us that Tim’s presentation was a must-attend because of his accessible explanations, funny anecdotes, and expansive knowledge. We were not disappointed. In just under an hour, Tim outlined the nitty-gritty of how governance works in the NWT, equating the process to that of a sausage maker. You don’t really want to know what goes into the process, but the final product is (typically) excellent. We thoroughly enjoyed Tim’s presentation, and found it difficult to halt our questions.
Our second meeting with newly elected Speaker Jackson Lafferty was not to be missed, however. Speaker Lafferty discussed his motivations for entering politics and ascent to his current role. As he described, an Elder in his community had initially encouraged Speaker Lafferty to run for a seat during a byelection, and had since re-convinced him to present his candidacy during each election cycle. The Speaker has enjoyed a varied and impressive career in the Legislature, from unofficial opposition MLA, to Leader of the Opposition, to Cabinet Minister, and now Speaker. Throughout his career – and particularly in his current position – Speaker Lafferty has been encouraging his fellow MLAs (and himself) to showcase their native language and culture in the Assembly. Speaker Lafferty’s determination, intelligence, and humour impressed us throughout our meeting.
These first meetings lay the foundations for the rest of our trip. We couldn’t have imagined a better introduction to the NWT Legislature, or a better first morning.